SEPTEMBER 5, 2022
By Ian Putzger in Toronto
Having grappled with congestion at the port complex of Los Angeles and Long Beach, the problems at New York and New Jersey present a sense of déjà vu, to Paul Brashier, VP of drayage and intermodal, at ITS Logistics.
Port congestion has shifted from the west coast to the east – last week, there were 130 containerships waiting for berth space at US ports, but only a quarter of those were queueing on the west coast.
As shippers shifted Asian imports from California, anticipating serious delays, possibly even paralysis from a labour conflict, the number of ships off LA/LB was in single digits, whereas the number piling up near gateways on the east coast and in the Gulf of Mexico was soaring.
Savannah had the longest line-up, with 41 vessels awaiting berth space at the port.
“Savannah and Houston have picked up a lot of market share,” said Mr Brashier, adding that he expects the elevated traffic levels there to be “somewhat permanent”.
The situation has been fluid on the east coast; sometimes Charleston was struggling more to cope with imports, sometimes it was Savannah. For ITS, which provides drayage in 39 markets, including rail ramps, this has resulted in a flux of staff and equipment.
When the problems were more pronounced in Charleston, it got some of its Savannah-based drivers to ‘deadhead’ up there and pick up containers; when Savannah became problematic, it had to pivot drivers and equipment from Charleston to Georgia.
This need for flexibility has become a permanent element for the drayage provider.
“There’s been a paradigm shift with beneficial cargo owners,” Mr Brashier said. “Many have abandoned their strategy of using one gateway and are now using different ports, or at least different terminals.”
At the moment, US drayage operators are facing the biggest challenges at the port of New York and New Jersey.
“That’s been a rough spot since the beginning of the year. We’re seeing there now what we saw in LA nine months ago,” said Mr Brashier.