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Global port congestion remains elevated: new highs in bulk carrier and car carrier, increasing trend again in container

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Disruption to global logistics and supply chains remains widespread, with overall port congestion now running above the levels seen last year and specific container fleet congestion trending towards previous highs.

Discussing recent trends in the Clarksons Port Congestion Index, Steve Gordon, Managing Director of Clarksons Research, commented:

Disruption to global logistics and supply chains remains widespread, with the Ukraine conflict and new Covid-19 lockdowns in shipping’s biggest market, China, contributing to further elevated levels of delay across the global maritime transportation system. Port congestion remains a major contributor to elevated freight and strong market conditions in many shipping segments, with the ClarkSea Index, a cross-segment charter index for global shipping, reaching $41,377/day on 18th March, just 3% below the 12-year high seen in October 2021.

Congestion trends at containership ports remain acute, with the Clarksons Containership Port Congestion Index (representing the level of fleet capacity globally in port or an associated anchorage each day) rising to 35.2% (7dma) on 16th March from 33.7% (7dma) a month earlier, impacted by operational “knock-on” effects from the Russia-Ukraine conflict (e.g. delays due to customs inspections) at container ports globally and new “lockdowns” in China. This compares to a ‘pre-Covid’ (2016-19) average of 31.3% although remains below the October 2021 peak of 37.5%.

Key congestion “hotspots” across the container network this year include the US, China and Northern Europe. On the US East Coast, capacity at port totalled 0.9m TEU on 16th March (7dma), up by 24% on the start of the year. In China, where new Covid-19 outbreaks have led to fresh local “lockdowns”, capacity at port totalled 2.2m TEU on 16th March (7dma), up 18% since start month. In the UK and Continental Europe, capacity at port totalled 1.2m TEU on 16th March (7dma), up by 18% since the start of the conflict in Ukraine.
The level of Bulkcarrier capacity at or around port globally has increased further this year; our index (covering Cape and Panamax sized vessels that typically move cargoes such as iron ore, coal and grain) reached a new record of 36.3% on 21st February (7dma) and averaging 35.0% in the ytd, up from 32.8% in 2021, and a ‘pre-Covid’ average across 2016-19 of 29.7%.

In particular early 2022 saw a major increase in bulkcarrier port congestion in Indonesia as a result of the country’s ban (now removed) on coal exports introduced at the start of January in order to shore up domestic supply. As of 14th January, 197 bulkcarriers (14.4m dwt, largely Panamaxes and Handymaxes, 7dma) were at major Indonesian coal load ports, up from 122 ships (8.4m dwt, 7dma) at the start of the year.

Port congestion related to Car Carriers has also seen a new record high, with the level of Car Carrier capacity in and around port standing at 28.1% on 16th March (7dma), compared to a 2021 average of 25.0% and a ‘pre-Covid’ average (2016-19) of 22.7%.
Our overall cross-ship type Deep Sea Cargo Vessel* Port Congestion Index (showing the level of fleet capacity globally at port or an associated anchorage each day) has averaged 31.5% in 2022 ytd, compared to 30.7% across 2021 and a ‘pre-Covid’ average across 2016-19 of 29.5%.

Our earlier expectation that congestion would take some time to unwind has been amplified by the impacts of the Ukraine conflict and the new Covid-19 disruption in China. We also expect the direct and indirect impacts of the Ukraine conflict (e.g. vessel re-positioning, changing trading patterns, stockpiling, sanctions, chartering policies – see our Russia / Ukraine Shipping Impact Assessment series on Shipping Intelligence Network for more detail) to create further “inefficiencies” across the maritime transport system.
Source: Clarksons Research


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