What’s causing the congestion at U.S. ports?

What’s causing the congestion at U.S. ports?

Shippers and truckers at gateway ports across the U.S. have reported problems with empty containers not being returned since the post-pandemic freight boom began, and the problem of not knowing what to do with empty containers on the U.S. East Coast is getting worse.


Shipping lines refuse to accept box returns at the terminal, forcing truckers to store unneeded empty containers at their own expense and then pay D&D fees for the privilege. Truckers who complain or refuse to pay D&D fees could be cut off from further shipments, trucking companies said.


The problem is spreading to other East Coast ports such as Baltimore. Empty container overflows have occurred, hampering terminal operations and port liquidity. Faced with a continued surge in East Coast imports, the way carriers and marine terminals manage equipment must change.

At some East Coast ports, they need public input to assess how carriers and their marine terminal operators are managing their containers to determine whether emergency levels are now in place.


The ocean freight industry is currently entering a phase of equipment oversupply after a prolonged period of surge in demand and the expansion of global container equipment inventories. As markets reopen and demand softens, oversupply is a natural consequence of supply and demand forces balancing at new levels.


The oversupply situation is not surprising, as global average container prices and leasing rates have been falling since September-October 2021. Recycling empty containers appears to be a top priority, with an increase in outbound empty container volumes driving record July throughput.


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