Shipping and transit times to North America have grown considerably over the past few months. Container shipments to US ports per month were at an all time high in August 2014. Depending on the destination, transit times have increased 4-5 weeks.
Products are leaving the foundry on time, but they are sitting at the docks 2 to 3 weeks at each end of the ocean journey. Large scale congestion at USA and foreign ports is the result of several issues:
- Labor slowdowns and anticipated labor actions have both slowed ship loading and unloading. Labor issues at some Chinese ports slowed several weeks of deliveries. At US ports, the promise of contentious labor talks had many ship early to avoid delays if talks bogged down. Contract talks continue.
- US Ports are facing longer times unloading the new class of ever larger vessels. The delays are congesting already packed dock schedules.
- A change in the truck chassis system in the USA has increased delays. When carriers controlled container chassis, they provided one with each container pick up. Carriers decided not long ago they didn’t want to own truck chassis, and the new system has them everywhere but where they need to be: at the port. The result is long waits for a free chassis to pull containers from the yards, and a lack of driver hours to deal with the delays.
- The surge in volume and the port delays has intermodal terminals and trucking capacity out of sync, causing further congestion.