Hundreds of boxships held up by widespread port delays
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Hundreds of boxships held up by widespread port delays


Congestion at quaysides and along the supply chain is forcing thousands of seafarers to wait at sea until a berth becomes available

  • 19 Oct 2021/LLOYDS LIST
  • NEWS


Containerships of all sizes are suffering from severely disrupted sailing schedules as demand continues to overwhelm ports that are unable to process all of the inbound and outbound cargo quickly enough because of trucking shortages and other distribution pressures


MORE than 600 containerships are waiting outside ports across the world, unable to go directly to a berth on arrival because of congestion on the quayside or in storage yards.

This represents around 12% of the world boxship fleet in terms of ship numbers, and includes vessels of all sizes from very small locally deployed tonnage right up to those with intakes of 23,000 teu.

recent analysis estimated that the amount of teu capacity effectively inactive because of supply chain delays also amounted to more than 12%. The delays also mean that thousands of seafarers are stuck on board ships that are unable to dock at their scheduled time.

Initially mostly affecting the US, where consumer spending rebounded spectacularly, ship queues have spread to all corners of the world, with just about every reasonable-sized boxport affected to some extent.

Seaexplorer shows that most ports handling containerships in the deepsea trades are suffering from some disruption, but many of the biggest are severely gridlocked.

They include Los AngelesLong BeachNew York/New Jersey and even the Canadian port Prince Rupert in North America.

A record 100 ships of all types were at anchor or in holding areas outside the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach on October 18, according to Marine Exchange of Southern California, up from the previous record of 97.

Of those, 70 were containerships including the 16,000 teu CMA CGM Alexander von Humboldt (IMO: 9454448) and CMA CGM Jules Verne (IMO: 9454450).

The latest number was only just below the recent all-time high of 73. Furthermore, another 23 boxships are scheduled to arrive in southern California in the coming three days, six more than the normal level for this time of year, prior to the pandemic.

Lloyd’s List Intelligence puts the number of boxships actually anchored in San Pedro Bay at 46, including 14 greater than 10,000 teu. Others are waiting further away.

In Europe, ships calling at Rotterdam, AntwerpHamburg and Felixstowe are all being held up, often for several days, because of issues ranging from severe congestion in both port container yards and offdock locations, to stack density, and the shortage of truck drivers. 

In Asia, severe congestion is apparent in some of the world’s top ports including Singapore, where ships are having to wait around two to three days for a berth caused by high inventory utilisation, low productivity due to yard density.

Others experiencing disruption include Hong-Kong,  Pusan and Chittagong, which are all heavy congested, according to Seaexplorer.

However at Shanghai, the world’s largest container port, operations are now back to normal, with congestion less severe than it was with waiting time for a berth at out at between half a day and two days.

Figures from Lloyd’s List Intelligence shows 119 ships anchored off Shanghai and Ningbo, including 15 at or above a capacity of 10,000 teu.


Other regions including Central and South America, Africa and Australia/New Zealand all have some levels of port disruption. Auckland, for example, is suffering from considerable congestion while an added problem for Sydney is a threat of industrial action at Patrick Terminals.

The daily report issued by the Marine Exchange of Southern California shows that of the 70 containerships at anchor or in a holding area and awaiting orders or a berth, 23 were 10,000 teu or larger. The boxship that has been at anchor the longest is the 2,800 teu Martinique (IMO: 9314985), which arrived on September 9.

Seaexplorer is showing about 650 ships waiting outside ports wordwide, including more than 100 in North America, around 350 in Asia and approaching 70 in northern Europe and the Middle East.

However, the exact numbers are constantly changing and also depend on methodology. 

VesselsValue puts the figure at around 570 for ships identified as at anchor, waiting, or idle. Looking just at the Automatic Identification System status, which is provided by a ship’s crew, the number goes up to more than 600.

Of ships operating in the international trades, VesselsValue data shows that 334 ships of 2,000 teu or more are currently waiting to enter port, representing 2.2m teu.

Felixstowe, one of the ports particularly badly hit, has handled 31 vessels so far this month equating to 281,408 teu. That is 45% less than for the same period in 2020, and 51% lower than in the corresponding month of 2019, “suggesting that the port is struggling with turnaround times”, said VesselsValue head trade analyst Charlotte Cook.

However, the port hotspots of the world are changing all the time. While Felixstowe has been in the headlines recently because of logjams, it had been Antwerp before that, according to Lars Mikael Jensen head of network at AP Moller-Maersk.

Port disruption

Queues of ships outside major port hubs has become common place over the past year with supply chain's clogged globally. Vessel tracking data from Lloyd’s List Intelligence below shows the latest number of ships anchored outside the major export regions in China and awaiting entry to North America's premier import destination Los Angeles/Long Beach

China (Shanghai & Ningbo)*


> 119 containerships anchored off Ningbo and Shanghai, including 25 boxships greater than 10,000 teu

Source: Lloyd's List Intelligence (October 19, 2021)

* Containerships over 10,000 DWT



China (Hong Kong & Yantian)*

> 150 containerships anchored off Hong Kong and Yantain, including 15 boxships greater than 10,000 teu

Source: Lloyd's List Intelligence (October 19, 2021)

* Containerships over 10,000 DWT

North America (LA & Long Beach)*


> 46 containerships anchored off Long Beach and Los Angeles, including 14 boxships greater than 10,000 teu

Source: Lloyd's List Intelligence (October 19, 2021)

* Containerships over 10,000 DWT


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