Western Congestion Slowing Global Shipping

Hamburg, Germany

Port congestion in Europe and the US is continuing to impede the recovery of global shipping supplies, at a time when turnaround times for containers in China have reached an all-time low, according to a report by the world’s leading logistics technology company.

As the rush to get exports to buyers escalated last year, the average median time containers spent in Chinese depots dropped to just five days, down from 61 days in 2020, according to the report produced by Container xChange in association with research organisation Fraunhofer – CML.

In contrast, containers are spending more than 50 days in depots in the US, UK, United Arab Emirates and South Africa, as ‘dwell times’ reached near-record levels.

Several leading Asian exporters achieved rapid container turnarounds last year. Vietnam, Singapore, Thailand and Indonesia got their average median turnaround times down to nine, 11, 16 and 19 days respectively.

“However, the mismatch between supply and demand at many origin ports, including in China, means it is hard for US and European importers to always secure boxes unless they have planned ahead, or are working closely with their box supplier, forwarder or container line, to ensure they have both a vessel slot and a container available in advance,” Container xChange’s CEO, Dr Johannes Schlingmeier, said.

He said until current congestion is cleared, major imbalances will persist in the supply and demand of both vessel capacity and containers.

“As the Omicron variant brings more disruption, with Chinese New Year around the corner and some ports including Ningbo already facing lockdowns, we are expecting a volatile start to the year for ocean freight logistics.”

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