Port congestion prompts Hapag and CMA CGM to abandon stopovers at the Port of Savannah

Hapag-Lloyd ship docked at TraPac Container Terminal in Jacksonville (JAXPORT)

Posted on Oct 13, 2021 1:33 PM by

The maritime executive

In the face of persistent delays at the Port of Savannah, two of the largest container shipping lines have announced plans to suspend calls to the fourth busiest port in the United States. With Savannah handling nearly 500,000 TEUs per month and a record 5.3 million TEUs in FY21, delays have accumulated, creating perhaps the largest backlog for a port in the United States right now.

“In our continued efforts to optimize our service portfolio, stabilize schedules and adapt to market needs, we will adjust AL3 service by temporarily removing the Port of Savannah, US, from its rotation,” writes Hapag-Lloyd in a new customer alert. . The carrier will begin replacing Jacksonville, Fla., In mid-November, on the route that includes Hamburg, Antwerp and London.

At the same time, CMA CGM also announced to customers its intention to replace Savannah with stopovers in Charleston, South Carolina, starting in mid-November as well. The French carrier informs customers in its service update that it “will temporarily stop calling Savannah due to severe congestion at this port (8-10 days) and in order to protect the integrity of schedules and the weekly navigation frequency “. The change comes for a route sailing between the Mediterranean and the east coast of the United States.

Savannah officials cited increased imports creating the current delays at the port. In a September interview with the Wall Street Journal, Griff Lynch, executive director of the Georgia Ports Authority, said, “We’ve seen this transition from just-in-time in supply chains to just in case, and it changes our system dramatically. Because of all this extra freight being imported, it creates a backlog from the ship side to the dock side to the warehouses and through the entire supply chain. “

Ships anchored off Savannah on October 13 (image courtesy of Marine Traffic)

According to AIS data, there are currently 23 vessels waiting at anchor off Savannah. August was the second busiest month in port history with container volumes up 10% from 2020. In an effort to alleviate growing congestion, the Georgia Ports Authority Board approved two years ago. weeks over $ 34 million to help accelerate an additional 1.6 million TEUs capacity. which will start going live in December. A portion of the approved spending includes the purchase of 22.2 acres as well as funds to begin developing an additional 18 acres of land. By 2023, the port plans to add 230 acres of container handling space.

In the meantime, the Jacksonville Port Authority (JAXPORT) stresses that it has no container ships waiting at anchor and offers shippers two-way river traffic to transit to and from the berths. JAXPORT also has significant infrastructure investments underway to ensure continued growth, including more than $ 200 million in berth and terminal upgrades and a federal project to deepen the Jacksonville shipping channel. which is expected to be completed in 2022.

Charleston recently added a second container terminal to help it adjust to future growth. Port officials said retail imports helped generate record container volumes at its two terminals. Volume increased five percent in September from the previous year to a total of over 205,000 TEUs. So far during the year, the volume has increased by 18 percent.

Increasingly, carriers plagued by delays and disrupted schedules are looking for alternatives to congested ports. Maersk confirmed that it skipped stopovers at the UK’s busiest port instead of using supply ships from Europe to bring containers to Felixstowe, while in the US the Oakland, California area has seen a resurgence, including direct services from Asia to the port to avoid congestion in southern California.