Data From Top 30 United States Ports Shows Swelling Volume and Persisting Challenges; Chris Jones Comments
UNITED STATES - As the industry continues to seek advancement amidst challenges in the supply chain, data shows that United States seaports are still facing some of the worst congestion in history due to backlogs, equipment shortages, and inland logjams.
“U.S. seaports face the unprecedented situation where they’re now in their 17th straight month [as of March 2021] of record container import volume,” Chris Jones, Executive Vice President of Industry and Service at trade intelligence firm Descartes Datamyne, told Logistics Management. “Consequently, continuous and shifting congestion and delays, and unpredictable lead times for importers has resulted.”
According to the source, the Ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach, which handle approximately 40 percent of U.S. imports, have encountered a majority of the challenges; at the end of 2021, more than a hundred vessels waited to berth at Los Angeles for more than two weeks.
The top five West Coast ports saw total throughput decline 40.6 percent in July, while the top five East Coast ports held steady at 44.4 percent.
“Part of the reason for the shift to East Coast ports can be attributed to the growth of Chinese imports getting around West Coast port congestion,” added Jones.
In July 2022, the ports of Savannah, Houston, and Charleston saw 24.8 percent, 20.3 percent, and 19.0 percent growth, respectively, with the Port of Savannah reporting record volumes and becoming one of the most congested ports in America. The only West Coast port that saw a similar increase was Seattle at 25.9 percent.
As the source notes, these shifts can also be attributed to labor challenges and consistent schedule issues.
“Schedule reliability remains a significant challenge for carriers. Lead times have been very fluid,” continued Jones. “Last year, West Coast ports experienced long delays, and now it’s the East and Gulf Coast ports. This makes it hard for carriers to predict when containers will be available for their customers. There is a knock-on effect for subsequent schedules if vessels are delayed at ports.”
To get a further breakdown of the pressures impacting the top 30 U.S. ports, click here.
ANUK will continue to monitor the supply chain challenges impacting our industry and the methods fresh produce suppliers employ to overcome them.