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Vessels Anchored & Unable to Dock. The Details: How & Why


From LA port in the United States to Felixstowe port in England to the Panama Canal, as well as hundreds of other ports around the world, vessels have been forced to anchor for days, even weeks, in harbors while waiting to dock. As anything but a typical occurrence, many port committees are calling it sheer chaos.

With major manufacturers like Apple, DFS, Primark, and countless others announcing lengthy delays due to issues with their supply chain, it seems a perfect storm situation is brewing. Every day, shippers are becoming more aggravated with wait times while uncertainty continues to mount, and finger-pointing has begun. To help understand this unprecedented situation, let’s look at why vessels are anchored outside ports unable to dock and why shippers are becoming agitated.

How It All Started

Not surprisingly the increased wait time for vessel docking is a direct result of the COVID-19 pandemic. With major international shipping disruptions from Asia at the beginning of 2020, buying surges from consumers stuck at home, and a lack of containers returning to China from around the world, it is easy to see why port congestion has been happening.

At this very moment, most major ports have stacks of unloaded containers five or six high waiting for truckers to pick them up for further transport. Operating at maximum capacity due to high volumes, ports have been struggling with equipment, workforce, and operational strain. Industry reports state that the congestion could continue well into March of 2021, and with these setbacks vessels are arriving into ports unable to dock due to the lack of space for their loads.

Why Shippers Are Upset

The age-old saying that “time is money” rings true in this instance. With cargo waiting in limbo on vessels unable to dock, shippers grow irritated waiting on their cargo to be delivered. Furthermore, the longer a ship has full containers on it means the longer it must wait to return to its origin to pick up another load. Ocean carriers make money by picking up new loads and dropping them off as fast as they can; these wait times and bottlenecks are costing everyone involved a substantial amount of money.

Altogether, shippers are upset because they are paying more to ocean carriers while failing to meet turnaround times. Furthermore, the frustration is escalating due to costly vulnerabilities in the supply chain that could have been avoided if proper systems and infrastructure were in place. While ports scamper to fix failing operations, shippers along with truckers are stuck in a maddening situation that everyone feels could have been handled better.

While we can't fix the congestion issue, Clear Freight can help you navigate these uncertain times and take away the headache of untangling your supply chain. Contact us today to see how our team can help you.

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