Reacting to fears of labour disputes and disruption at west coast ports, many US importers diverted cargo from Asia to the east coast – only to find that Atlantic congestion may be worse than on the Pacific.
Importers on the west coast are getting their cargo quicker than their peers on the Pacific coast, with wait times of less than four days at Los Angeles and under two days at Long Beach, but nine-ten days at Charleston and three-four days at Norfolk.
Ports on the US east coast have been battling waves of congestion for the past year, with overwhelmed terminals leading to intermittent vessel backlogs outside the ports of Charleston, Savannah, New York and New Jersey, and Virginia. This is despite government intervention and assistance in alleviating the issues which are now embedded throughout The USA.
The pile-up in the east began building in the second half of last year when eastern gateways received more mega-ships on their berths, as congestion on the west coast prompted shifts of imports.
In February, carriers warned that dwell times had gone up at several east coast ports, including Newark, Virginia and Charleston, with delays expanding by several days and some expect the situation to deteriorate further, with expectations that the east coast could be the next hot spot for congestion.
The migration of imports from Asia to the east coast gained momentum as contract negotiations between longshoremen and terminal operators, due to start next month, have previously led to labour disputes that have disrupted cargo flows.
Analysts remain hopeful that the likelihood of a strike or shut-out in California is relatively low, given the pressure on the union from the Biden administration to avoid disruption.
The problem is that while ports on the eastern seaboard do not have labour contract negotiations looming, they face many of the same issues as the west coast and in particular the lack of space and labour shortages.
MSC informed customers this month it would temporarily stop calling at the port of Charleston on its route to South Asia because of extended wait times.
Traffic is moving from the east coast to the Gulf of Mexico, increasing container imports to Houston, which increased container volumes 27% in January, with observers noting it was already getting swamped with containers.
We would ask that customers shipping to, or importing through, the west coast speak to us at the earliest opportunity so that we can review their situation and prepare their supply chain.
We have set up contingency platforms for customers to ensure that product is delivered to market in the USA, without the delays experienced with alternative providers.
For further information please call your established account manager, who will share all current options. They will take you through the alternative services and solutions, that we are able to offer, to ensure that your product reaches its destination, within vital deadlines.