India Port Congestion Increases As Asia Dies Down

 In Industry News, Trans-Border Global Freight Systems, Inc.

June 27th 2024 – Vessel delays are decreasing at key gateways in North and Southeast Asia, with overall improvements in equipment availability in China. However, congestion is worsening in India.

Asia-based shipping executives report that vessel delays have diminished at ports such as Singapore, Ningbo, Qingdao, and Klang in Malaysia.

“Congestion has slightly improved in Singapore because carriers are calling at ports in Malaysia, such as Klang and Tanjung Pelepas, instead,” a FIBS Logistics spokesperson told the Journal of Commerce.

Container volumes at Tanjung Pelepas have surged by 20% this year, partly due to vessel diversions from Singapore. Klang’s Northport saw a 26% increase in container volumes in May, reaching 335,361 TEUs, due to ad-hoc calls by carriers.

“There has been a modest improvement in wait times of two or three days in Singapore, but it is very much carrier and service dependent, and wait times remain significant,” a senior executive at a Hong Kong-based freight forwarder told the Journal of Commerce.

Ocean Network Express (ONE) reported that sailings on its Asia-Europe Far East Pacific 1 service are being delayed due to severe congestion in Singapore. However, delays of up to eight days at the end of May have since eased to up to five days on some FP1 sailings.

Elsewhere, wait times have reduced to up to two days in Ningbo and less than 24 hours in Qingdao, compared to up to three days at the end of April, according to Hapag-Lloyd.

Data from Linerlytica also shows an improvement in Singapore, with vessels totaling 286,778 TEUs waiting at anchorage on Thursday, compared to 350,281 TEUs on June 15. However, vessel numbers and total capacity waiting to berth have surged since early May, when vessels totaling just 42,290 TEUs were at anchorage on May 1.

In China, equipment availability has improved since early this month. More 20-foot and 40-foot containers are available for carriers in Dalian; more 40-foot containers in Shanghai; and 20-foot equipment is more plentiful at Taiwan ports.

“Overall, the container shortage has improved in China, but there is still tight supply in central China in places such as Wuhan,” the FIBS Logistics spokesperson said.

While the situation has improved in China, Singapore, and Malaysia, India’s largest container gateway, Mundra, is struggling with rising transshipment volumes. Carriers operating services between Singapore and Dubai have curtailed some sailings at Mundra to allow vessels to return to other Asian ports faster.

According to trade updates, container dwell times have significantly lengthened at Mundra over the past few weeks due to delays in import clearance from heavily congested container yards.

Indian container rail operators (CTOs) blame the port for train turnaround disruptions and their inability to clear cargo backlogs, which are causing additional port charges for importers.

CTO sources speaking with the Journal of Commerce report yard backlogs for railed freight at 15 to 20 days, compared to the normal seven to nine days. Approximately 50% of Mundra’s traffic moves by rail.

The Association of Container Train Operators, representing private intermodal license holders, noted that the situation warrants a force majeure step from the port authority.

The Container Shipping Lines Association (India) has urged the port to take urgent steps to improve cargo flows.