U.S. ports expect shipping gridlock to extend into mid to late 2022

September 8, 2021 – Leaders of some of the busiest U.S. ports expect congested maritime gateways to continue deep into at least the middle of 2022, as the crush of goods from manufacturers and retailers looking to replenish depleted inventories pushes past shipping’s usual seasonal lulls, reports the Wall Street Journal.

While the majority of the delays are affecting the retail industry, any large logjams are likely going to have a collateral affect on the healthcare industry, since many products are manufactured overseas.

Major U.S. ports were forecast to handle the equivalent of 2.37 million imported containers in August, according to the Global Port Tracker report produced by Hackett Associates for the National Retail Federation (NRF).

The figure is the most for any month in records dating to 2002, and NRF projects overall inbound volumes for the year will reach 25.9 million containers, which would break the record of 22 million boxes in 2020.

Ports are already swamped by record numbers of containers reaching U.S. shores during this year’s peak shipping season and the number of vessels waiting for berth space at Southern California’s gateways. Even when the containers are brought ashore, they are often again stymied by congested freight rail yards and warehouses that are full to capacity.

The congestion has contributed to a world-wide shortage of shipping containers and to spiraling costs for ocean freight, the Wall Street Journal reports.

The logjam prompted the Biden administration to appoint a ports envoy last month to address how to improve cargo movement following complaints from U.S. businesses facing inventory shortages, shipping delays and rising costs.

Port directors say the oceanside congestion could worsen as the peak holiday-shipping season continues. One port has broken container-handling records for 13 consecutive months.

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