Warning that volumes and port utilisation are likely to rise despite moderating growth, the TSA says that congestion at Asian ports will impact cargo flow and therefore ship schedules. The association reports consistently higher ship utilisation since May and through the northern hemisphere summer, which has led to increased congestion at Asian ports – “notably Shanghai, Hong Kong, Singapore and Colombo, due to booming intra-Asia and Asia-Europe trade growth,” it said.
According to the TSA, US importers are facing supply chain congestion challenges that will become progressively more complex to manage as the peak shipping season advances.
TSA chairman Ron Widdows said that Asia–US supply chain infrastructure was already operating at peak capacity, with no margin for error in the system. The main concern for container lines in 2007 and into 2008, he said, is not a weaker market but supply chain disruptions from congestion at Asian ports, labour slowdowns, and capacity availability and cost increases for truck and inland rail transport.
In particular, the proposed Los Angeles/Long Beach harbour truck initiative has raised concerns about the future cost and supply of harbour trucking services at a critical gateway for US commerce. Additionally, with bunker fuel costs hovering in the US$400 per tonne range, Widdows predicted that fuel cost will become an even greater factor in ocean carrier economics over the coming year.
In South Africa, Transnet Port Terminals has announced that it is studying the Los Angeles/Long Beach truck programme with a view to implementing the system at the Durban Container Terminal.
The TSA is made up of the following companies: American President Lines Ltd, CMA CGM, COSCO Container Lines Ltd, Evergreen Line, Hanjin Shipping Co Ltd, Hapag Lloyd Container Lines, Hyundai Merchant Marine Co Ltd, Kawasaki Kisen Kaisha Ltd. (“K” Line), Mediterranean Shipping Co (MSC), Mitsui OSK Lines, Ltd. (MOL), NYK Line, Orient Overseas Container Line Ltd, Yangming Marine Transport Corp and Zim Integrated Shipping Services.