Georgia Ports Authority Sees Port Congestion into 2022 / West Coast Vessel Dwell Time Increases

Georgia’s Port of Savannah—the largest container gateway on the East Coast after Newark, New Jersey—handled 478,620 20-foot equivalent container units in May, its second-busiest month on record, and more than 100,000 TEUs higher than the volume reached in May 2019. Savannah’s all-time monthly high was 498,065 reached in March. As of Monday, about a dozen container carriers were anchored outside Savannah’s port, a temporary bottleneck attributed to a tropical storm earlier this month and now-completed dredging conducted over the past several weeks.

Container Ports from Seattle to Charleston, South Carolina, have posted record-high volumes this year, and many are so swamped with cargo that ships are forced into costly delays waiting for space to dock. The capacity strains have pushed ocean-freight rates to levels four times higher than they were before the pandemic.

Meanwhile, the congestion is worse on the West Coast as an influx of goods from China, Vietnam and elsewhere in Asia overwhelms port terminals, exhausts warehouse space, and strains transportation connections like trucks and rail depots. Union Pacific Corp. this week temporarily halted rail movement of containers from western ports including Los Angeles and Long Beach, California, to clear a logjam of boxes near Chicago. At last count, 18 ships were queued up off the coast of Los Angeles with an average wait for berth space of almost five days. Containers were stuck at the L.A.-Long Beach terminal for an average of 4.76 days in June, up from the dwell time of 3.96 days the previous month.