Congestion Causes Cargo ‘Seesaw’ at Ports of Savannah and Charleston

By Barry Parker (gCaptain) –

The rivalry for maritime commerce between Charleston and Savannah dates again for hundreds of years, properly earlier than containerization changed into intermodalism.

The sharp progress within the Southeast, the place distribution facilities have flourished, has led to continued progress in each ports. Current features for East Coast ports may be traced to the widending Panama Canal in 2016, which introduced neo-Panamax containerships calling with Asian-sourced cargo. Within the pandemic years, “provide chain disruptions” have changed purely financial issues, fueling much more progress for East Coast ports as extra inbound cargo shifts to East and Gulf Coast ports, away from West Coast port (and intermodal) congestion. This yr, growing issues about potential labor disruptions alongside the docks on the West Coast have been one other theme. 

Within the newest month-to-month report from John McCown, a four-decade veteran of the container trades, particulars what might solely be described as a “see-saw impact” between ports, specifically Charleston and Savannah, the place fortunes have ebbed and flowed reflecting among the dreaded congestion.

In an earlier McCown report, protecting April, 2022, the nice total fortunes for the 2 ports have been highlighted, with Savannah’s month-to-month import strikes up 11% over April, 2021 (to 262,586 teu) whereas Charleston had booked a 34% enhance (over April, 2021) in import bins (taking 140,730 teu inbound). 

In McCown’s most up-to-date report, for June 2022, he notes that “the delays at Savannah led some operators in June to omit a later port name at Charleston and unload these containers at Savannah to make up time. That is the alternative of what occurred in earlier months.” 

The ships at anchor, seen on ship monitoring maps (or on the night information, albeit with far much less frequency than in late 2021), are nonetheless there.

McCown says that “throughput might be pushed by the flexibility to get containers out of the terminal. It’s clear that the bottlenecks in US ports are associated to this and to not getting containers off the ships.”

He goes on to elucidate that “These bottlenecks in flip consequence from an array of points together with the interface with different modes and capability constraints in addition to gear cycle time expansions additional down the provision chain.”

Whereas information scientists and logisticians are attempting arduous to streamline data flows, the very fact is that (paraphrasing John McCown from an article I did a couple of months in the past), it’s actual cargo flows that trigger delays and disruptions, irrespective of what number of “digital twins” are in place. 

The sensible impression of that is that the transport strains can’t regulate their port calls immediately, thus they’re typically reacting to final month’s landside bottlenecks.

“Choices to omit port calls can’t be made on the final minute, and sometimes they show to be much less efficient than anticipated with altering situations. June noticed a see-saw impact in play that helped Savannah and harm Charleston,” whereas additionally mentioning that total coastal volumes weren’t impacted. 

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