A backup of container ships off one of the U.S. East Coast’s busiest ports has swelled to 40 vessels, reviving a bottleneck that had cleared earlier this year and raising fresh concerns over potential supply-chain disruptions during the critical peak shipping season.
Officials at Georgia’s Port of Savannah, the fourth-largest U.S. gateway for seaborne container imports, said the delays in getting ships to berths resumed in recent weeks as shipping volumes accelerated after an earlier backlog that topped out at about 30 ships was cut back to nothing this spring.
“We’ve more than doubled the demand that we had in prepandemic on the import side,” said Griff Lynch, executive director of the Georgia Ports Authority, which operates the Savannah port. “That is driving some congestion on the berthing side.”
Mr. Lynch said the demand has been surging earlier than usual this year because some major retailers moved up their back-to-school and holiday imports to beat ongoing supply-chain challenges.
The backup at Savannah, which handled some 2.9 million containers last year, is the latest sign that congestion at U.S. seaports is persisting even as authorities from Southern California to New York are trying to speed up the flow of boxes and keep goods moving.
The pandemic-fueled retail boom has led to a surge of imports since last year, leaving logistics operations at sea and on land scrambling to keep up.