Labor slowdowns and strikes at German and Dutch ports are creating a massive backlog of export containers bound for the United States that will take months to empty.
According to bills of lading found via ImportGenius, some of the items exported out of these ports are essential components for the automotive sector, such as lithium batteries, fully assembled automobiles, as well as a wide variety of automotive parts and chassis. Mercedes, BMW and Ford have been listed in recent US Customs filings.
“U.S. importers should look four to five weeks ahead to see if there’s an available vessel,” said Andreas Braun, director of ocean products for Europe, Middle East and Africa at Crane. Worldwide Logistics. “This is not normal. Also, if you are lucky enough to book a slot on a ship, then you need to locate an empty container which may be in the hinterland.”
Interior decor, flooring and Ikea furniture were also listed.
“Congestion at these ports is spreading to other major ports in Europe,” Braun said.
Slowdowns in vessel arrival, container processing and container availability, and trucking are common issues.
According to Sea-Intelligence, which tracks the reliability of ship schedules, only 30-40% of all global schedules are on time. Braun said this congestion will only further exacerbate the logistics planning delay.
Unfortunately, moving empty or full containers from the hinterland or to ports is also a problem. Rail congestion, the result of labor slowdowns and strikes, clogged the tracks.
“They cannot bring containers into the port (Hamburg and Bremerhaven) in advance,” Braun said. “They have to wait seven days before departure and even then that doesn’t automatically mean it will be loaded onto the ship because the yard capacity is high and there is congestion.”
Congestion, which has reduced container availability, is not only a concern for importers, but the perceived lack of containers can drive up rates. These costs are passed on to the consumer, adding to inflation.
“Yes, the strikes had a big impact, but the congestion has built up so much that even if there were no more strikes, the situation would remain chaotic for the next three months,” Braun said. “Some carriers have diverted volumes from German ports to Antwerp and Rotterdam, which has caused increased congestion. This congestion has created a domino effect of delays. Vessels leaving Europe to the east coast of the United States will be also behind there. There is no catching up,” he added.
Once a container is on a ship, Braun told CNBC, U.S. importers can expect their containers to arrive seven to nine days late.
The German union Verdi and the Central Association of German Port Companies (ZDS) begin their sixth round of negotiations on Tuesday.
The CNBC Heat M Supply Chainap the data providers are the artificial intelligence and predictive analysis company Everstream Analytics; the global freight booking platform Freightos, creator of the Freightos Baltic Dry Index; the logistics provider OL USA; the FreightWaves supply chain intelligence platform; the Blume Global supply chain platform; third-party logistics provider Orient Star Group; the marine analysis company MarineTraffic; marine visibility data company Project44; shipping data company MDS Transmodal UK; sea and air freight benchmarking firm Xeneta; leading research and analytics provider Sea-Intelligence ApS; worldwide crane logistics; and air, DHL Global Forwarding and freight logistics provider Seko Logistics.