Supply Chain: Logjams Intensify on East Coast

The Port of Savannah, Ga., the fourth-largest U.S. gateway for seaborne imports, last week was trying to clear a backlog of more than 20 container ships that has grown in the waters outside the port, in the latest logjam to hit the country’s swamped supply chains.

Between 20 and 26 vessels have been idling at a time in the Atlantic Ocean in recent weeks while containers have stacked up for extensive periods on docks awaiting inland transport.

The backlog is the largest among East Coast ports that generally haven’t faced the kind of congestion that has snarled operations on the West Coast, according to maritime industry officials.

Griff Lynch, executive director of the Georgia Ports Authority, which operates the Savannah port, said the critical gateway for goods heading into the U.S. Southeast and Midwest has been inundated with shipments.

“We have seen this transition from just-in-time in supply chains to just-in-case, and that is significantly changing our environment,” Lynch said. “Because of all this extra freight being imported, it’s creating a backlog from the ship side to the dock side to warehouses and across the whole supply chain.”

At Savannah, imports surpassed the equivalent of 1.8 million loaded containers in the first eight months of the year, a 30.1 percent increase over the same period a year ago.

The “dwell time” for containers waiting for transport on and off the port has grown from an average of four to five days to as many as 12 days before coming down to 9.2 days last week, Lynch said.

Source: Wall Street Journal