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Container supply chain disruption set to continue through 2022

Photo: Port of Rotterdam Hans Nagtegaal_2aa (002).jpg
Hans Nagtegaal, Director Containers Port of Rotterdam
Current container supply chain congestion is set to continue through 2022, with a return to liner schedule reliability a key factor, according to the Port of Rotterdam.

Europe’s largest port has seen good volume growth this year, although these volume increases on their own would not result the difficulties being seen in the supply chain in a normal year, with current volumes slightly above 2019 levels.

Emile Hoogsteden, Vice President Commercial of the Port of Rotterdam, told an online media briefing that container volumes had grown 7.8% in the first three quarters of 2021 and were up 4% in terms of tons. This growth is seen continuing into October although at slower rate as volumes had already started to pick-up again in the same month last year post-Covid lockdowns.

“We're happy to see that the volumes we are having now are above 2019 levels and we do expect actually the growth to continue into 2022,” he said. The port handled 11.5m teu in the first three quarters of 2021 compared to 11.2m teu in the same period in 2019.

This growth though has come against a background of issues with empty container repositioning, events such as the blockage of the Suez Canal by the Ever Given, and closure of much of Yantian Port due to a Covid-19 outbreak leading to growing port congestion and supply chain dislocation globally.

Hans Nagtegaal, Director Containers Port of Rotterdam, highlighted that container line schedule reliability has been at all time low this year and remains so. According to analysts Sea-Intelligence global container line schedule reliability stood at 34% in September as an average across 34 different trades.

“We see that the lead time and also the dwell times on the terminals are further and further increasing and it creates a large backlog. In Rotterdam, for instance to give you an example, the average dwell time for a container has moved from four to about seven days,” Nagtegaal explained.

He said the port sees the situation continuing through 2022. Nagtegaal likened the supply chain to gears or cogs that have become tightened together and need oil to allow them to run smoothly again.

“We actually need some oil, and the oil that we need is schedule reliability. That would be the first step where we see a global change this effect. We need somewhere that the schedule reliability can be picked up,” he said.

However, he noted that it didn’t help that 25% of global containership capacity is essentially out of the market waiting outside ports for berths. This highlights a chicken and egg situation with lines blaming their poor schedule reliability on delays and congestion at ports.

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