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Full Capacity At Ports Across Northern Europe

18th October 2021
Ports at full capacity across northern Europe. Compared with the US, vessel delays are less severe but are still adding to schedule disruption that reverberates across networks. Ports at full capacity across northern Europe. Compared with the US, vessel delays are less severe but are still adding to schedule disruption that reverberates across networks. Credit: LloydsLoadingList-twitter

Anchored containerships are becoming a regular sight in the English Channel as ports across northern Europe remain heavily congested, reports LloydsLoadingList.

The numbers are nowhere near as high as in southern California, where overnight data shows that 56 containerships were either anchored or in holding areas while waiting to enter Los Angeles or Long Beach. Nevertheless, at least 20 boxships heading towards Antwerp, Rotterdam, Hamburg, Felixstowe, or other major ports in the region have had to anchor in recent days until a berth has become available.

Several have been forced to stay outside Rotterdam, Europe’s largest port, where Kuehne+Nagel’s ocean freight intelligence platform Seaexplorer says there is “extreme yard congestion at several terminals”, with opening and closing times for cargo constantly changing, and trucks delayed at the port by one to three hours. Some terminals are refusing to accept empties.

Ships that have been caught up in the delays include the 18,270 teu Triple-E class Munkebo Maersk (sister of Mette Maersk) and the 20,150 teu Ever Glory. Afloat.ie adds a G-class container giant along with a sister, Ever Given which blocked the Suez Canal in March.

Rotterdam is ranked number 10 in the world by Lloyd’s List in terms of box throughput, which totalled about 14m teu in the past year.

Nearby, Antwerp, the world’s 13th-largest container port, with 2020 volumes of 12m teu, is also heavily congested. Average vessel waiting time is currently about four to five days, according to Seaexplorer. This reflects severe trucking problems as well as container shortages including a lack of reefers boxes for some lines.

Vessels waiting to enter the Belgian port include the 19,000 teu CSCL Pacific Ocean, and the 23,800 teu HMM Oslo along with numerous smaller ships.

However, some of the vessels at anchor in northern Europe are far larger than those in San Pedro Bay waiting to berth, since the biggest ships regularly deployed on the transpacific trades are around 14,000 teu, with only occasional exceptions.

Seaexplorer shows that ports in northern Europe with the least congestion right now are Bremerhaven, DP World's London Gateway and Southampton facilities, and Wilhelmshaven.

All have some disruption but not to the extent of others. Felixstowe, which has been in the headlines this week, remains severely congested, with stack density reaching 92%. That is way above the level needed for a smooth functioning yard.

More here on the challenges in Felixstowe and why US ports congestion is far worse. 

Published in Ports & Shipping
Jehan Ashmore

About The Author

Jehan Ashmore

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Jehan Ashmore is a marine correspondent, researcher and photographer, specialising in Irish ports, shipping and the ferry sector serving the UK and directly to mainland Europe. Jehan also occasionally writes a column, 'Maritime' Dalkey for the (Dalkey Community Council Newsletter) in addition to contributing to UK marine periodicals. 

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