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Congestion keeps growing – 427 vessels idle in major container ports

With queues totaling 427 container ships in the world's ports, bottlenecks have worsened by 14 percent since early September, show fresh figures from Vessels Value. More ships are heading to ports, so there is no sign of improvement, the company says.

Photo: Mike Blake/REUTERS / X00030

Shipping lines and their customers have to search far and wide for fewer delays and bottlenecks at major ports as there is no improvement in sight.

On the contrary, new numbers from analyst firm Vessels Value show that a total of 427 container ships, corresponding to a capacity of 2,914,445 teu, are currently lying in wait outside the world's ports. A surge by 14 percent from 376 ships in early September.

The container port in Long Beach, California, is particularly hard hit.

"Congestion at the port is now so severe that vessels have had to take to drifting in the neighbouring Santa Monica bay and beyond, as the anchorages reach capacity. Port call duration times have increased in line with high waiting times and the port has extended operational hours, as it struggles to clear throughput and improve turnaround times," says Charlotte Cook, head trade analyst at Vessels Value, in a comment to ShippingWatch.

Currently, 67 ships are queuing up outside Long Beach, more than a doubling from the start of September. And according to Vessels Value, the longest-waiting ship has been idling for 22 days.

Asia hit as well

Meanwhile, bottlenecks are worsening in Asia, too. A total of 74 ships are lying idle outside Ningbo/Zhoushan, corresponding to 306,538 teu, a growth in number by 48 percent in just one week.

"Ningbo has experienced terminal closures and bad weather in recent months, worsening port congestion," Cook says, adding:

"Currently there is also a major shortage of Container boxes at exports ports, and getting empty containers back to be refilled with manufactured goods is taking much longer than normal."

Some import harbors have deprioritized loading empty containers in an attempt to get rid of bottlenecks, and Cook worries that this could lead to problems in the coming months, with canceled shipments from Asia due to container shortage.

She expects the number of ships waiting at ports to continue growing, thereby worsening the lack of available ship capacity just as the freight market is headed for its busiest time of year up until Black Friday and Christmas.

"Alongside the current numbers of vessels waiting, we are also seeing high numbers of vessels still en route to these locations, suggesting that clearing this congestion will take some time and disruptions are likely to remain well into 2022," Cook tells ShippingWatch.

Vessels Value views this severe congestion as a side effect of the recovery in the world's economies following the Covid pandemic. The problems are due to a cocktail of increased demand, terminal closures, lack of available labor and lack of available container vessels.

English Edit: Jonas Sahl Jørgensen

376 container vessels queuing off ports around the world 

Container vessels spend more and more days waiting off major ports

Congestion grows – 59 container vessels queuing up off Los Angeles 

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