Asia port congestion tests supply chains

Port congestion at some Asian ports is delaying cargo and has forced at least one carrier to launch a feeder service to transship at less-affected ports.

Carriers said Bangkok, Chittagong, Kolkata, and Shanghai are among the worst affected ports, with berthing delays of about a week. While part of the problem has been caused by growing container volumes, carriers also point to inefficient operations and inadequate infrastructure exacerbated by bad weather, particularly in eastern China.

An evaluation of live ship data seems to support this, particularly at Chittagong, where 7 of the 15 container ships at anchor waiting to berth at the port have been anchored for four days or more. Five have been waiting for three days or more, and three have been waiting for two days or more, according AISLive, a sister product of within IHS Markit.

Unlike most ports, Chittagong and Bangkok ports operate berths on a “first come, first served” basis rather than allow carriers to pre-book a berthing window.

The current waiting time at Chittagong is up to a week.

“There are a total of 57 geared and 7 gearless ships registered with the Chittagong Port Authority [CPA] to call at Chittagong. The port simply can’t cope, despite CPA controlling the approval of vessel licenses to call Chittagong,” Lim told Fairplay, a sister product of within IHS Markit.

“Productivity is lower” at Bangkok Port “and Port Authority of Thailand is always taking out berths for repairs and the maintenance of equipment such as gantry cranes,” Lim said.

Chittagong has also ordered additional cranes but they have yet to be commissioned, and while geared vessels can also use the general cargo berth and new container terminal at Chittagong, there are still delays.

As both Chittagong and Bangkok are river ports they are also draft restricted, which adds to the difficulties.

Bad weather in China has recently caused carriers significant problems at Shanghai and Ningbo, but the situation around Shanghai seems to have improved from then. While seven ships were waiting to berth at Shanghai for four days or more during the last bout of congestion in April, AISLive shows only four ships waiting that long as of the afternoon of May 14.

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