The pandemic, the ports and the container crisis

Eltrak - Cat banner ad

The weather conditions but especially the coronavirus pandemic were an explosive combination for the operation of the ports and the shipments of the containers.

“Stuck” outside ports around the world are 353 container ships. This number is more than double the corresponding number last year, according to data from the logistics company Kuehne + Nagel.

Stonetech banner ad
Stonetech banner ad

“The Covid-19 pandemic has shown that ports are in desperate need of investment,” Consultancy Transport Intelligence CEO John Manners-Bell told the Financial Times. “The entire port infrastructure system has been flooded in the last year,” he said.

In some cases, such as the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach in the United States, where there are 22 waiting ships, it will take up to 12 days for ships to anchor and unload their containers.

Shipping groups such as AP Moller-Maersk of Denmark, Swiss-Italian MSC, German Hapag-Lloyd and CMA CGM of France have difficulty delivering goods on time, with containers remaining at sea.

The pandemic and the necessary upgrade of infrastructure

This stalemate has caused stock shortages and delivery delays, raising prices and frustrating consumers at a time when the boom in the online market triggered by the pandemic has boosted demand for delivery the next day.

Covid-19 border restrictions, social distancing measures and factory closures have wreaked havoc on traditional supply chains, leading to increased fares on major shipping routes between China, the US and Europe.

Even before the pandemic, ports were under pressure to upgrade their infrastructure by automating their operations, moving toward carbon dioxide emissions and building facilities that could handle the new generation of larger ships.

Others argue that it is unfair to blame the ports for the problems that arose during the health crisis, problems that were exacerbated by the blockade of the Suez Canal earlier this year.

“Every part of the supply chain is at a tipping point right now,” Manners-Bell said. “You can not blame the carriers, the trucking companies or the shipping lines. “Even small changes in demand can have a huge impact on the supply chain.”