Supply Chain News Bites - Only from SCDigest

-August 23, 2007



Global Logistics: Congestion is Low at Every US Port as Peak Volume Approaches


Most Recent Port Tracker Report finds Smooth Sailing from Long Beach to Savannah, though European Ports are Jammed; Temporary Condition, or Brief Respite from the Storm?


By SCDigest Editorial Staff


Evidence continues to support the perceptions of most importers that congestion at U.S. ports has, for now, been substantially eliminated. In the always informative monthly Port Tracker report from the National Retail Federation and research firm Global Insights, congestion was rated as “low” in all 10 U.S./Canadian ports monitored by the service (LA/Long Beach, Oakland, Vancouver, Seattle, Tacoma, Savannah, Houston, New York/New Jersey, Charleston, and Hampton Roads/Virginia).

So what happened from the logjams of 2004/05 to get to this tranquil state? Global Insight researcher Paul Bingham recently answered a reader question in detail on this topic (See Reader Question: Why Isn't Port Congestion at U.S.Ports an Issue Any More?), noting that after those tough years, “most everyone in the supply chain took some action to reduce their exposure to the impacts of future potential congestion.”

Actions have ranged from the Pierpass program at Long Beach, to general improvements in the process flow of container movements, as well as shipper diversion away from Long Beach/LA. Those moves, combined with a recent dramatic reduction in the growth of import container volumes, have made life for importers much betterr (See Worries about Port Congestion Fade, as Inbound Container Volume Growth Slows Dramatically).

Meanwhile, congestion at European ports seems to be rising, rather than abating, in part because Europe is a few years behind the import growth curve than the U.S., and also due to even stronger opposition to port expansion there (See European Supply Chains Threatened by Inability to Expand Ports).

So will the congestion issues in North America return? Bingham notes that the “low-hanging fruit of easy throughput capacity additions through operational changes alone (e.g.the extra shifts with PierPASS) become harder and harder to find over time,” as import volumes continue to see strong increases, despite the moderation in growth seen over the past few quarters.

Send an Email