Skipped port calls add even more frustration and delays

With global supply chains continuing to struggle against pandemic-related congestion and disruption and traditional peak seasons being extended, or seemingly never ending, we are anticipating a pre-Chinese New Year rush in December/ January and would recommend planning supply chains well ahead for 2022. ‘Forewarned is forearmed’ as the saying goes

Despite inventory levels sitting at their lowest ever recorded levels and cargo volumes continuing to remain strong, some container shipping lines are taking steps to “rationalise” their service coverage, by reducing the number of port calls, in an attempt to speed-up schedules and improve reliability on its Asia-North Europe loops.

And the increasing number of ship diversions in North Europe is adding to problems for exporters experiencing booking cancellations, due to the last-minute decisions by carriers to skip ports making the uplift of laden containers impossible.

The decision to omit scheduled port calls due to berthing delays, while succeeding in turning ships around in North Europe at a quicker pace, is creating a build-up of frustrated exports and cancelled empty evacuations at several ports.

Over-landed UK cargo is now stacking up at Rotterdam and Antwerp, with carriers looking at other ports, such as Zeebrugge and Wilhemshaven, to discharge UK import bound boxes, which ultimately have to be sent on an additional short sea voyage to their final destination.

Without any spare capacity to relay the containers back to the UK, carriers are turning to feeder operators, who say that even when they find ships, the chances of getting a berth to load or to discharge the boxes back in the UK are slender, and they could be sitting outside ports for several days. This is compounding issues rather than resolving them unfortunately.

Often feeders cannot get alongside, as deep-sea container ships, that had arrived after the feeder, are given berthing preference by the port and it is not unusual for it to be the same shipping line that fixed the feeder movement.

There are reports that Felixstowe, London Gateway and Tilbury are all currently refusing to accept any ad hoc feeder vessels and while landside congestion at Felixstowe is easing, some carriers have previously advised that operations were being impacted by very severe trucking shortages across the country, leading to high yard density in the ports.

It is anticipated and widely accepted that the issues we see currently within the logistics sector and the high freight rates across all modes will continue next year without much compromise until the second half – hopefully with a ‘correction’ in a very strained global shipping market leading back to some sort of sustainable normality.

Metro will always provide you with the latest market information, insights and options, so that you can be proactive in securing your supply chain. 

We always favour engagement and a collaborative partnership approach with our customers and encourage the sharing of forecasts, so that we can secure volumes and book space, well in advance. 

For further information and to discuss your ongoing requirements please contact Elliot Carlile or Grant Liddell.