Suez backlog cleared as ports prepare for turbulence

Suez backlog cleared as ports prepare for turbulence
422 vessels were held up by the canal blockage

The final batch of ships that were delayed in transiting the Suez Canal by the grounding of the Ever Given completed their passage through the waterway on Saturday April 3, while numerous ports are now preparing to handle the backlog.

As many as 422 vessels were stuck across the canal’s northern and southern entrances and Great Lakes region during the six day closure.

Maersk anticipates that new inbound vessels reaching the canal will only experience a delay of one or two days until Wednesday when “we will have a blank sheet”.

However, the disruption has forced the carrier to temporarily reduce is spot booking acceptance, with short-term bookings suspended on multiple trades including Asia to North Europe.

In a statement, Maersk noted: “Our people are working relentlessly with all the information at hand to alleviate the knock-on effects of the Suez blockage.

“As we begin to better understand the impact of the delays across the vessels, port and terminal backlogs, we will be able to open Maersk Spot booking acceptance again on affected trading routes.”

Across Europe, ports are introducing strategies to cope with the incoming spike in vessel arrivals. PSA Antwerp, for example will only accept export containers within seven days of a vessel’s estimated time of arrival.

In Valencia, terminals and shipping companies will focus their management on coordinating empty containers so that they are in terminal yards for the shortest possible time.

If necessary, empty containers will be transported at times that do not affect the activity of the terminals, to the external depots in order to have enough space for loading and unloading operations.

Forwarders will inform companies in the port’s hinterland that export containers should only enter the port when the port call of a vessel is regulated and authorised, in order to reduce yard congestion while boxes await their departure.

Néstor Martínez, deputy assistant director of Valencia Port Authority said: “We want to avoid an export container arriving at the port when the ship that has to load them does not arrive for another 15 days to avoid occupying unnecessary space.”

From April 13, MSC Terminal Valencia and CSP Iberian Terminal Valencia will bring forward the opening of doors to 06:00 from 08:00, for the delivery of import containers and empty containers.

In addition, CSP Iberian Terminal Valencia will delay the closing time of the gates to 21:00 to facilitate the access of export traffic that may have suffered delays in its operations throughout the day.

Research from data analytics company Dun & Bradstreet along with E2open noted that Europe will be the most badly affected region by the canal blockage, while companies in Asia will be impacted by the delay of shipments from Europe and the shortage of empty containers returning to their region.

The top shipments to Europe that transit the canal include vehicle parts and accessories, garments, electrical materials, machines and mechanical appliances and pharmaceutical goods.

Pawan Joshi, executive vice president of product management and strategy for E2open, said: “While considerable attention has focused on the economic value of cargo trapped on vessels and their inability to move through the Suez Canal, the financial impacts on downstream production that depend on the timely delivery of these materials is magnitudes greater.

“For instance, the delay of an inexpensive but crucial automotive part en route from China can prevent the sale of the entire vehicle in Germany.”

Back at the canal, the Suez Canal Authority (SCA) is looking for compensation of more than US$1bn, citing the costs of the salvage operation, stalled traffic and lost transit fees during the six days when the Ever Given was grounded.

SCA chairman Osama Rabie has said that the vessel, which is chartered by Evergreen and owned by Shoei Kisen Kaisha, will not leave the Great Bitter Lake until compensation is paid.