• Joseph O'Donnell

Shipment delays are the new normal as east coast U.S. ports experience increased congestion


Container vessel entering the port of Newark, New Jersey, 2013

Ocean freight shipments moving through east coast U.S. ports are facing delays due to heightened port congestion caused by the high volume of imports from Asia and COVID-19.


It was anticipated that some congestion would be experienced as the first wave of vessels from Asia's peak export season completed their voyage to the east coast U.S.


However, congestion is more intense than usual as more shippers and consignees continue to re-route shipments via the east coast to avoid the extreme congestion issues prevalent within the U.S. west coast port systems.


As a result, large container vessels have been discharging containers at eastern port terminals that would normally offload at west coast ports like Long Beach, Oakland or Seattle.


Thus, east coast terminals, warehouses and truckers are operating at higher than normal capacity which is causing operation costs to increase.


Truckers are now waiting in line for hours at New York/Newark port terminals to turn containers that need to board vessels or be pulled to load materials at warehouses. Many truck carriers have already begun implementing $100 - $150 USD congestion surcharges on shipments in the area.


Meanwhile, vessels are remaining anchored for days waiting for their turn to berth at terminals to offload and load containers, resulting in overall sailing delays of up to 14 days. Some ocean carriers ,such as Hapag-Lloyd, have already announced plans to charge their own congestion fees starting in December, 2020.


Unfortunately, this abnormally high port congestion is expected to last until at least early 2021 as imports from Asia continue to flood the U.S. and the world prepares for the second wave of COVID-19.


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