Backups, delays, and disruptions continued to hamper supply lines this spring, with port congestion and rail capacity affecting the flow of trade nationwide.
The Port of Savannah saw its worst vessel congestion levels in more than six months in May, according to recent data from logistics software provider project44, and port officials there said they expect high levels of congestion through June. Ongoing construction at the port contributed to the backups and led to rising anchorage times and import container dwell times during the month. Weekly median anchorage times at the port have been rising since May 9, according to project44 data; vessels were waiting 5.5 days for berthing slots as of May 30. Import container dwell times rose 20.6% to 4.21 days at the end of May compared to the previous week, while export container dwell times remained high but stable at 10 days.
The backups were part of a larger slowdown along the East Coast throughout May, according to project44. A lack of trucks and rail capacity contributed to bottlenecks at the Ports of New York, New Jersey, and Norfolk, for instance. This followed a general easing of congestion nationwide in April.
Separate data on rail conditions showed that a lack of capacity is threatening West Coast port flow. Third-party logistics services provider (3PL) Noatum Logistics pointed to rising concerns about dwell times for rail-bound containers in a report issued May 31. The 3PL said that average rail container dwell times in Los Angeles and Long Beach reached 9.6 days in April, compared to 7.7 days in March. This compares to an average container dwell time of about three days prior to July 2020, a level needed to maintain port fluidity, according to the trade group Pacific Merchant Shipping Association (PMSA). Dwell times for trucks leaving West Coast ports were high as well, at more than six days.
“While it is important to note that dwell time for containers leaving by truck did not increase this month, it is equally important to note that 6.09 days is far too high. Prior to July 2020 containers remained on terminals for about three days and that’s what we hope to get back to,” Jessica Alvarenga, manager of government affairs for PMSA, said in a May 20 press release.