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U.S. containerized imports from Asia in December were up 29.9% year over year with December marking the third highest monthly volume figure in 2020 behind October and August. Typically, we begin to see a slowing in the import volume from Asia in December due to a drop after the holiday rush, but the current strong peak that began mid-year is still surging. The current strong peak is expected to continue for the next two months at a minimum with the next big push coming in the first two weeks of February prior to the Lunar New Year. The continued wave of import containers means that the congestion issues for ports, terminal operators, and inland rail hubs that the market has been challenged with since last fall will continue for the near to medium term.

An additional serious concern over and above the unprecedented shipping delays, container equipment shortages, overbooked vessels, lack of truck power and escalating freight rates is the looming COVID-19 impact on terminal operations. The ILWU reported that as of Sunday, a total of 694 union members had tested positive for COVID-19. Of those, 364 worked in Los Angeles and 330 in Long Beach. A total of 1,080 ILWU members were exposed to people with COVID-19. It is unlikely that the escalating infection rate among dock workers will lead to temporary terminal closures, but the reality is that the pandemic is driving labor shortages effecting terminal operations and productivity. As of January 20, 34 were at berth and another 30 at anchor awaiting berth in the Los Angeles / Long Beach port complex.

Terminal Operations Updates:

U.S. West Coast

  • LA/LB – Currently 30 container ships anchored outside of the port complex
    • Terminal congestion is worsening with some terminals at or above capacity
    • Influx of import cargo is continuing and expected to grow
    • Lack of rail cars – causing berths to go idle– rail is moving cars to ports
    • Lack of chassis and truck shortage paired with gate congestion is slowing progress
    • Berth congestion due to ships off proforma expected to continue if not worsen over the next 4 to 6 weeks
    • Labor shortages continue as PMA is limiting gangs
  • OAK – Currently 7 container ships anchored outside of the port complex

U.S. East Coast

  • NYNJ – Currently experiencing berth congestion due to schedule delays and vessels off proforma
  • Terminal gate is by appointment only – after 1300 open gate with no appointments needed

Rail Operations:

Congestion in Terminal Rail Operations / Dwell Times:

  • Shortage of rail cars and terminal capacity issues are adding to dwell times on terminals for the USWC due to metering because of capacity issues on terminals
  • CAN – VCR – Average 2.4 days dwell
  • SEA/TAC – Average 5.03 days dwell (SEA), 2.60 days dwell (TAC)
  • LA/LB – Average 8.9 days dwell
  • NYNJ – Average 6.5 days dwell
  • Norfolk – Average 2.44 days dwell
  • Wilmington – Average 3.25 days dwell
  • Charleston – Average 4.2 days dwell
  • Jacksonville – Average 2.00 days dwell

Noatum Logistics is working diligently on limiting these impacts for our customers. If you have any questions, please reach out to your Noatum Logistics representative.