Shipping and Logistics

Port Congestion Further Hampering Supply-Chains

Written by David Schollaert

Container ships are stacking up all around the U.S. as the ports are overwhelmed by surging imports of all types of goods. Delays at the ports may further extend the already-long lead times for the growing orders of foreign steel.

Imports of all types of products from Asia, for example, increased 32.4% in the first seven months of this year versus the same period in 2020, according to IHS Markit’s PIERS data provider. The double-digit increase is stressing ports already contending with logistics delays and labor shortages, causing vessels to bunch up in the early days of peak shipping season.

According to the Marine Exchange of Southern California, there is now a logjam of more than 50 vessels in Los Angeles-Long Beach awaiting space, with more vessels scheduled to arrive daily. Similar bottlenecks are reported at ports in New York-New Jersey, Seattle, Savannah and others.

Underscoring the severity of the problem, the Port of Philadelphia’s main container terminal took a three-day stoppage to all vessel operations earlier this month to clear out container backlogs. Operator Greenwich Terminals said in a notice that they have not taken lightly the decision to delay vessels. However, they said the best way they can help the trade community is to focus their efforts turning containers and making space for incoming ships. Philadelphia’s total imports rose 23% year over year during the first seven months of 2021.

According to a report from, the next three months will be difficult for the ports and their severely taxed inland supply chains. “Within the coming months, carriers are aiming at what can at best be described as a capacity explosion on the trans-Pacific trade,” said Alan Murphy, CEO of Sea-Intelligence Maritime Analysis. “Good for a booming market, but [it] could lead to even worse congestion.”

By David Schollaert,

David Schollaert

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