Carriers are struggling to manage delays caused by storms and continued port congestion

©Andrew McAlpine

Storms that battered northern Europe last weekend caused container terminal operations to shut down for long periods of time, adding to delays for shipping carriers.

According to a Maersk customer notice, between Thursday February 17 and Sunday February 20, operations were suspended for an average of 72 hours across its network of northern European ports.

“This has caused further disruption at terminals and a backlog of ships waiting to berth,” Maersk said, adding that it was now focused on recovering from ship schedule delays and “working tirelessly to mitigate ripple effects”.

The Loadstar understands that 2M’s partners, Maersk and MSC, will seek to omit certain calls in northern European ports to recover some of the lost time and relay the cargo landed via feeders. But, in the long term, the most impacted loops will only be able to see a return to pro-forma timetables by masking the next announced departure of the ship.

The Ocean and THE alliances will also be forced to skip port calls and consider canceling subsequent voyages for their ships.

The storm delays in Northern Europe will add more pressure on the supply chain and further delay the hope of “normalization” of the Asia-Northern Europe trade route.

At the same time, 2M’s partners are also struggling to manage scheduling delays on their Asia-Mediterranean loops.

“The unprecedented situation of severe port congestion around the world continues to cause an accumulation of delays on several services,” Maersk said, adding that the accumulated delays had caused significant discrepancies in departures from Asia of “more than seven days”.

As a result, Maersk and MSC effectively decided to “slip” the two-loop crossings by changing the voyage numbers to match the actual departure dates. The affected services are the Maersk/MSC AE15/Tiger and AE12/Phoenix loops in weeks 14 and 15, early April, which will now depart a week later.

Elsewhere, on the transpacific, the slight easing of delays for ships waiting to berth on the US West Coast came at the expense of an increase in delays for ships waiting to berth and hand -work on the east coast as carriers divert more capacity to less-congested gateways.

Hapag-Lloyd said today that the Alliance has decided to temporarily omit the Port of Charleston from VSA’s EC4 Loop 4 service, “due to extended wait times for vessel berthing and operation ” at the port. The carrier indicated that from the departure of the Witness YM from China in early March, the Charleston omission “is expected to continue for five consecutive trips.”

Last week, Hamburg Süd reported ship docking delays in Charleston of 6 to 11 days, “due to high import volumes and labor shortages.”

According to eeSea data, the EC4 loop deploys twelve vessels of 13,500 to 14,080 TEU over a pro forma round trip of 84 days. HMM is a slot charterer, not a ship supplier, on the loop.