Dwell times spike amid US West Coast ports disruptions

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Dwell times spike amid US West Coast ports disruptions

Global supply chain visibility platform, FourKites, has released a report detailing the logistical impact of the recent flurry of operational disruptions witnessed throughout major US West Coast ports.

In the last seven days, there has been an overall increase of 13 per cent in dwell time for the five major West Coast Ports.

Notably, the Ports of Tacoma, Oakland, and Seattle have experienced the most significant week-over-week impact, with dwell time increasing by 87 per cent, 43 per cent and 24 per cent, respectively.

However, dwell times are still below their March peak, and overall import volumes remain lower than last year.

Since the start of 2023, the proportion of US imports arriving at the West Coast has dropped below 35 per cent.

In May 2023, only 34 per cent of US import shipments were received at West Coast ports, a decrease from 41 per cent in the previous year.

FourKites customers have observed a further decline in West Coast import volume in the last few months.

Specifically, at the Ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach, the average shipment volume over a 28-day period has declined 18 per cent and 17 per cent, respectively, when compared to the levels observed at the beginning of the year.

In June 2023, the Ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach experienced a decrease in shipment volume, with a decline of 11 per cent and 14 per cent, respectively, compared to the end of May 2023.

READ: Canada West Coast port labourers call to strike in unanimous vote

“The work stoppage at the ports will impact manufacturer’s production schedules, distribution, and ultimately fulfilling orders to end consumers,” said Tom Gregorchik, Vice President of Industry Strategy at FourKites.

“As the busy season approaches in the summer, manufacturers need to be more diligent in tracking shipments to ensure a synchronised supply chain and even have contingency plans to hedge bets on different routes and transportation methods to mitigate risk,” Gregorchik added.

This report comes after operations at, and around key US West Coast ports were stifled due to strike actions from union workers.

The motive behind these disruptions were rooted in contractual disputes between the Pacific Maritime Association (PMA) and the International Longshore and Warehouse Union (ILWU), that lasted for over a year.

As seen in the figure above, operational disruptions inspired a power shift across the US over the last year, where importers have permanently rerouted their cargo to more reliable destinations in the East Coast.

It should be noted, however, that the US East Coast may become less of a viable option for shipping liners following the unprecedented levels of drought in the Panama Canal that will reportedly restrict cargo flow through the canal by 40 per cent.

Nevertheless, after a prolonged period of deadlock between the two parties, having begun negotiations in May 2022, the ILWU and PMA recently reached a tentative agreement.

While this may be the first bit of substantial progress made between the two parties, the details to this new six-year contract, covering workers at all 29 West Coast ports, remain undisclosed.  

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