Port congestion upsets almost half of Asia-Europe sailings

  • June 18, 2024
  • News

Roughly half of the sailings bound from Asia to Europe’s west have encountered delays, as congestion worsens at Asian ports, according to Linerlytica’s latest findings. Last week, only six out of 11 sailings heading to North Europe managed to leave on time, with heavy congestion plaguing ports such as Singapore and Tanjung Pelepas.

Linerlytica highlighted that although congestion at Singapore, the second-busiest port, has somewhat alleviated, it has intensified at Port Klang and Tanjung Pelepas in Malaysia. Waiting times have also surged across major Chinese port areas, particularly in Shanghai and Qingdao, where delays are now at their longest since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic.

In Shanghai, the world’s busiest port, ships have been waiting for berths for up to five days, marking the highest level of congestion seen since the pandemic began. S&P vessel-tracking data indicates that 50 containerships are currently in Shanghai, including those at anchorage, some of which have been there since the previous week.

In a bid to ease vessel queues, Singapore temporarily reopened the Keppel Terminal. However, there are still 56 box ships awaiting their turn in the port, prompting some operators like CMA CGM to bypass Singapore calls.

Nonetheless, the backlog in Singapore has decreased to about 380,000 teu compared to 450,000 teu the previous week.
Port Klang is also grappling with congestion, with 51 containerships currently in wait. Ports in Southeast and Northeast Asia remain the most congested, accounting for 29% and 23% of vessel queues worldwide, respectively.

The challenging situation has led management at Taiwanese liner operators Evergreen, Yang Ming, and Wan Hai to anticipate no immediate relief from congestion, resulting in sustained high freight rates into the third quarter. EMC GM Wu Kuang Hui highlighted that wage negotiations among port workers on the US East Coast, scheduled for September, could further incentivize shippers to expedite shipments to avoid potential industrial action.

Overall, Linerlytica observes that liner capacity utilization remains exceptionally high, with capacity forecasts for June showing a 3% decrease compared to the previous year, despite the introduction of new services like Hapag-Lloyd’s China-Germany Express (CGX) and Ellerman City Liners’ China-UK service.