US importers have now blocked up ports elsewhere to escape the congestion at important west coast gateways, and instead of Los Angeles and Long Beach, Houston is now the port with the worst issue, according to ITS Logistics.
Operational problems at the port in the US Gulf region are now rated as “high” by the US Port/Rail Ramp Freight Index, in contrast to “normal” operations on the west coast. Other areas are classified as having “moderate” problems.
The issues facing importers and operators in Houston range from vessel congestion and backed-up terminals to depleted chassis pools and limited container storage space. These issues have plagued importers and operators for the past year.
ITS views the Gulf storm season in addition to all of these problems as possible hindrances for Houston.
List of delays
Bob Imbriani, EVP international of forwarder Team Worldwide, said: “The port situation seems to move around.
For some time Houston has started to top the list for delays.
Vessels are unloaded in a reasonable time, with limited delays, but retrieval is the problem.
Terminal delays, equipment shortages, space issues, and rail delays are all increasing.”
In July, Houston’s container volume was up 10% year on year, in August this rose to 20% and hit 26% in September.
The strongest driver of this has been the shift of Asian imports from the traditional west coast gateways to ports on the US east and Gulf coasts, as beneficial cargo owners wanted to avoid a repeat of last year’s logjam at the LA/LB complex.
Also contributing is booming oil drilling in Texas and Mexico, as Houston is the natural gateway for imports for this.
Meanwhile, rail moves from the west coast to Dallas have been in “an absolute mess for the past four to five months”, noted Craig Grossgart, SVP of the global ocean at Seko Logistics, which has also prompted customers to switch traffic to Houston.
But the port’s two container terminals coped reasonably well, although they had their challenges, he said.
Bayport had some emergency dredging done and installed some new cranes, while Barbours Cut installed second-hand cranes acquired from Bayport.
“The terminals are well run, but lack of chassis has been a problem,” he added.
All of this has elevated Houston’s operational difficulties above those of other US ports.
Houston poses a serious threat, but not as much as LA did last year. We haven’t experienced many demurrage problems, according to Mr. Brashier.
Additionally, the port has taken action to address the issues. In order to provide import retrieval an extra day and to ease congestion, it opened the gates on Saturdays in August. However, this caused additional problems for exporters who were already experiencing delays.
The port is currently planning for increased traffic in the long run. By the second quarter of next year, it will expand the container yard at the Barbours Cut terminal by 20 acres. It has also purchased 29 electric cranes, which should begin arriving by next year.
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Source: The Loadstar