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A surge of imports is causing havoc in the world’s ports

Posted on December 10, 2020

And the hold-ups are worsening jitters about Brexit

WORKERS AT HONDA’S factory in Swindon, in south-west England, could put their feet up on Wednesday. The Japanese carmaker was forced to halt production after delays at Felixstowe, Britain’s biggest container port, stopped the delivery of parts. Congestion is building at other British ports too, including Southampton and London Gateway. Brexit is to blame for some of the delays, as businesses stockpile goods before Britain’s transition period ends on December 31st. But the problem is far from just a British one. Also on Wednesday, some 20 cargo ships sat at anchor outside the port of Los Angeles, America’s busiest, waiting for space to dock. The port’s storage yards have been nearly full since June.

The hold-ups are caused mainly by a fierce resurgence in trade, following the marked slowdown caused by the covid-19 pandemic. Imports from Asia coming through the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach, for example, were 22% higher in August and September than at the same time last year. Deliveries of personal protective equipment, such as masks, contributed to the surge in shipments from Asia. Lockdown restrictions have also lengthened processing times at Western ports, leaving containers on land for longer than usual and preventing their return for use in new shipments. Containers are sitting empty for an average of 45 days, according to a recent study by Container xChange, a provider of the big boxes.

Source: The Economist

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