Container congestion trouble on U.S. west coast

We spend a lot of time writing about the ocean freight numbers at the Port of Norfolk, but this story is decidedly west coast specific. As record imports leave Asia to reach the Ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach, rates have exploded in the container spot market. Equipment imbalances are disrupting the supply of exports leaving the same ports and bottlenecks are occurring at rail heads through out the west and midwestern cities. It’s a booming trade, but appears to be running out of track.

As we move into 2021, we still aren’t sure what the new administration will mean for trade and the relationship with China. There haven’t been any official announcements but many are concerned about the 301 duties and other issues like intellectual property and currency manipulation.

We do know that the container and ocean market won’t get better during the first quarter. Considering we’re looking at the Chinese New Year coming up with a looming shut down next month, it could be just the break we need to get our ports back on track and schedules reset. The problem with that is the record amount of cargo that will be waiting at Asian ports that are shut down with the holidays. Empty containers are already scarce and having them full at the port and not in transportation can hamper later services as the scarcity ramps up.

The Port of Norfolk is one of the few ports that hasn’t had a banner year as cargo tied up in the northeast and west coast, even the southern ports were up. But our well kept secret is showing a 10% year over year decrease for 2020 that we haven’t seen in over a decade. True, all record growth periods come to slow down, and the pandemic roughed everyone up a good bit. The positive in this situation is that there is a local way to get your ocean cargo moving and Nelson International is well placed to help you do it.