Port Congestion Eases in Asia While U.S. Battles Import Deluge

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Asia’s largest ports are showing signs that congestion is easing ahead of the holiday season, a potentially positive step for key trade gateways in the U.S. that are still battling an influx of imports.

Total traffic in Shanghai-Ningbo declined by 0.2% from the previous week and Hong Kong-Shenzhen’s ship count dropped 10.4%, according to an analysis of data by Bloomberg News. Singapore, Asia’s third-largest trade hub, saw a week-on-week drop of 14.7% as a backlog visible since early November looked to be largely cleared.

The same can’t be said yet across the Pacific, as queues of vessels remained elevated in Los Angeles and Long Beach, California. Congestion levels at those neighboring ports rose 6.7% from the prior week.

As of early Friday, at least 75 container ships were waiting for berth space to offload after politicians toured the ports two days ago, touting a 32% drop in the number of containers sitting on the docks for more than nine days.

The handoff between land and sea remains an issue for America’s largest container hub, as logistics operators on the ground are not picking up their containers quickly enough, and a steady stream of ships arrives to drop off more.

The White House said in a blog post on Wednesday that the number of containers sitting at the Los Angeles and Long Beach ports for more than nine days fell to 87,000 in the week ended Nov. 15, compared with 127,000 on Nov. 1.

Still, analysts were reluctant to call the worst of the global supply snarls over.

“The odds remain stacked towards a worsening before it gets better,” Lars Jensen, CEO of Vespucci Maritime in Copenhagen, said in an email Friday. “There is still significant risk of port impact from Covid outbreaks especially in China, there is risk of more cargo surge putting pressure on the supply chain as shippers already now begin to push cargo through rather than wait for the traditional rush before Chinese New Year” in the first quarter, he said.

Congestion wasn’t uniformly easing in Chinese ports. The congestion rate — the ratio of ships waiting to those in port — crept up 25% greater than the median in Tianjin, while a Covid-19 outbreak in the smaller port of Dalian drove down container ship counts to an April-to-November low of five ships.

Manila continues to see high congestion rates, with at least 15 container ships waiting to offload, compared with eight in port. In the U.S., Savannah, Georgia, continues to log the worst congestion rate among larger container ports at 87.5%.

[bloomberg]

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