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Roughly 80 per cent of the supply chain disruption impacting global trade and frustrating metal manufacturers across Canada stems from congestion issues associated with North American ports, according to a new report from global freight forwarder Kuehne + Nagel.

The company’s newly launched Seaexplorer disruption indicator measures the efficiency of the world container shipping networks. The indicator shows the cumulative TEU (20-foot equivalent unit shipping containers) waiting time in days in the ports of Prince Rupert, Vancouver/Seattle, Oakland, Los Angeles/Long Beach, New York, Savannah, Hong Kong, Shanghai/Ningbo as well as Rotterdam/Antwerp.

In these nine specific ports, normal would be less than one million TEU waiting days, Kuehne + Nagel explains. Yet currently the indicator reflects a waiting time and scale of 11.6 million TEU days – a persistently high level. What’s worse for North American companies is that roughly 80% of the disruption is associated with North American ports, according to Kuehne + Nagel’s report.

An example demonstrates how the indicator is determined: one vessel with 10,000 TEU capacity waiting 12 days to enter a port equals 120,000 TEU waiting days. In addition, another vessel with 5,000 TEU waiting 10 days to enter the same port equals 50,000 TEU waiting days. The total TEU waiting time is 170,000 TEU waiting days.

The Port of Los Angeles/Long Beach is the main source of the problem. Port officials say land capacity at the port is at 90% when it should be at 70% for efficient flow. Translation: there are too many trucks and people at the port right now to move freight around efficiently.

Getting things sorted out at the Port of Los Angeles/Long Beach has garnered the attention of the Biden administration for a few months now. Some measures worked well enough to keep the Christmas rush from turning into a total nightmare but congestion issues persist and will likely dog importers for weeks to come.

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