Port Report: Containership company sees ‘vicious cycle’ playing out in port congestion

Tight supply of labor, chassis, railcars, and space all contribute to port woes. Autonomous ships coming to Norway by next year. 

Congestion at the Ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach remain a mounting concern for logistics professionals in the U.S. The two ports account for just over one-third of all container imports into the U.S. are seeing a major influx of cargo this month due to ongoing front-end loading of containers ahead of potential tariffs on Chinese goods and the rush to beat factory closures ahead of Asia’s Lunar New Year. APL, a subsidiary of CMA CGM, said in a recent notice that the congestion at the port is resulting in “vicious cycle” that highlights choke points all along the supply chain.

While truck delays are reaching between two and four hours, vessels are also being delays as longshoremen are dispatched to work particular vessels. The “jumbo-ization” of container ships means ever larger crews, with some vessels having to wait two or three shifts after arrival for dockside labor. Likewise, drayage carriers are faced with a limited supply of drivers willing to work in the congested ports, a shortage that could be exacerbated by the imposition of new street-turn fees by container lines.

The high number of containers coming into the U.S. means an increasing amount of wheeled storage, leading to a deficit of chassis. Southern California’s main chassis lessor, the Pool of Pools, says chassis utilization remains at a 52-week high of over 85 percent, with chassis remaining on the street for up to five days on average. Terminal space too is getting tighter, affecting driver appointment times. APL also says “railcar supply is challenged” with more containers heading to off-dock railyards.

Container lines face headwinds in 2019

Trade wars and economic slowdown seen impacting steamship lines. (The Loadstar)

Middle Eastern port bans use of sulfur scrubbers on ships

Port of Fujairah says vessels calling there can only use low-sulfur marine fuel. (Saftety4Sea)

U.K. faces severe drop in trade over no-deal ‘Brexit’

Unconditional departure from Europe could mean loss of three-quarters of freight.  (Sky News)

Spanish port signs on for blockchain group

Maersk-IBM joint venture gets Port Authority of the Bay of Algeciras as customer. (Ports Europe)

The automation wave hitting the transportation industry is not limited to roads, but also the oceans. As FreightWaves reports, chemical company Yara looking at deploying an autonomous containership that will travel between ports in Norway by 2020. The distances between the ports is relatively short, between one and three hours of sailing time. The surface distances between Yara’s planned origin and destination pairs are relatively short at eight miles to 15 miles. But Yara says the volume of cargo carried on the vessels is the equivalent of 100 truck trips per day. As with other autonomous vehicle trials, the new vessel will initially be crewed, until full autonomy is achieved. Rolls Royce, which designed the autonomous vessel, has already deployed autonomous ferries working in the waters off of Finland.

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Michael Angell, Bulk and Intermodal Editor

Michael Angell covers maritime, intermodal and related topics for FreightWaves. His interest in transportation stretches back several generations. One great-grandfather was a dray horseman along the New York waterfront and another was a railway engineer in Texas. More recently, Michael has written about the shipping industry for TradeWinds, energy markets for Oil Price Information Service, and general business topics for FactSet Mergerstat and Investor's Business Daily. When he is not stuck in the office, he enjoys tours of ports, terminals, and railyards.