The record-breaking Atlantic hurricane season has severely disrupted liner transatlantic services, exacerbating capacity shortage problems along the route.
In addition, the acceleration of modal shift from severely congested U.S. West Coast ports to East Coast and Gulf terminals has led to further berthing delays and omissions of last-minute calls.
So far, the bad weather has forced ocean carriers to omit port calls on an ad hoc basis in order to make up schedules, but with no immediate abatement of adverse conditions, temporary network adjustments are being made for the winter period.
Maersk has informed its customers that its three vessels between Northern Europe and the U.S. East Coast, which it operates with MSC within the 2M alliance, will feature a number of port omissions, primarily on the East and Gulf coasts, as part of its “winter plan review.”
The company said, “Severe winter weather in the North Atlantic has led to a deterioration in reliability on routes.”
It said it planned to operate its TA1 (MSC’s NEUATL1), TA2 (NEUATL2) and TA3 (NEUATL3) on a planned winter schedule, and “we have agreed a second cycle for the winter plan covering the period December to February.”
It said it would endeavor to offer shippers affected by the changes other options for the omitted ports “when we have the capacity, an alternative sailing or route the same week.”
The carrier added: “We expect this program will greatly enhance their experience with Maersk, as sudden changes to their cargo plan will be reduced compared to previous years.”
Despite weather delays affecting vessel operations, U.S. East Coast ports are experiencing impressive volume growth, which has led to some berthing and shore delays.
The latest data from New York-based consulting firm Blue Alpha Capital, covering November imports at the ten largest U.S. container ports, recorded a further shift from West Coast ports to the East, as shippers in Asia rerouted containers to avoid lengthy delays for product shipped to Los Angeles and Long Beach.
According to Blue Alpha Capital data, the East Coast posted a 9.9% year-over-year growth in container imports last month to 1,053,533 teu, compared to a 7.5% decline in West Coast volumes to 964,704 teu.
Notably, the Port of New York and New Jersey (NYNJ) experienced a 3.2% increase in throughput in November to 395,336 teu, surpassing Long Beach to become the second-busiest container port in the United States, just behind Los Angeles’ 403,569 teu. Comparing growth to pre-pandemic November 2019, import volumes at NYNJ were up 31%, according to the consultancy’s data.
Meanwhile, in its latest operational update from U.S. ports, Hapag-Lloyd said there had been four vessels at anchor off New York on Friday, awaiting available berth and labor, although it said the average for the week stood at two.
“High berth and terminal utilization is expected to continue through the vacations and into the first quarter of 2022,” a spokesman for the line said.