2022 Update: The Worst Major Ports for Congestion

So, right now, what major seaport worldwide is the most congested?

If you define port congestion in terms of throughput, the capability to move both imports and exports through terminals without letting freight containers sit for days, then the port having the most difficulties with throughput in the first quarter of this year was Charleston.

Supply Chain Insights Exclusive Analysis of Port Congestion

project44’s Supply Chain Insights analyzed dwell times for both import and export containers at major ports worldwide for the first quarter of this year. (See charts below) While Charleston was ranked sixth highest for import container dwell times, it topped the list for the longest export container dwell times. Only Charleston in the United States and Antwerp in Belgium made both top 10 lists for the longest import and export median container dwell times.

Export dwell 2022 1 Q

If you look strictly at import container dwell times across ports worldwide, then Manzanillo in Mexico heads the list for the first quarter 2022. Dwell time is defined as the period from when the cargo arrives in the port to when it leaves the port premises. Supply Chain Insights is a unit of project44 that provides ocean freight intelligence.

Import Dwell Times Q 2022

Cargo Diversion Spreading US Congestion from West to East Coasts

Last year when US West Coast ports were slammed with a surge of imports, global shippers began diverting their Asian freight to East Coast harbors. While Charleston has been a major ocean gateway for exporting agricultural and forest product for years, import diversion has made Charleston a top destination for bringing in goods to the US. In first quarter of this year, the South Carolina harbor struggled to handle an all-time record number of containers, with a 5 day median dwell time for import containers and 14.45 day median dwell time for export containers.

Import Congestion Still Hits North American West Coast

When you look strictly at import container dwell times across the globe, Mexico’s largest seaport, Manzanillo tops our list with 6.97 days. Manzanillo is a key entry point for Asian imports destined for North America, particularly the United States. Mexican officials recently announced that the port would be adding more gantry cranes to keep up with the container volume growth.

Two US West Coast ports – Oakland and Long Beach – came in second and third respectively on our import dwell time list. Oakland had 6.92 days of import container dwell time while Long Beach had 5.61 days. A major factor contributing to their congestion is a lack of rail equipment for intermodal takeaway of the near-record surge of imports. The spike in demand for intermodal assets has knocked the railroads off balance and left them without enough railcars, chassis, and locomotives for the hinterland transport of containers from West Coast ports.

Sanctions, Empty Container Priority Causing Export Congestion

The German port of Bremerhaven came in second place on our list of global export container dwell times for the first quarter of this year, with 9.40 days. A major factor hindering exports there are sanctions placed on Russian bound cargo.

Norfolk and Savannah on the US east coast were third and fourth respectively on the list of ports with the longest dwell times for export containers. Norfolk had a 9.10 days of dwell time while Savannah had 8.61 days. One reason for the export container backlog is that China pays ocean carriers a premium to return empty containers from America back to China. As a result, a lot of American export products are held up.

Port Intel from project44

For ocean shippers looking for information on their own port situation, project44 recently launched Port Intel, an information service that gives supply chain executives the centralized data they need to measure and reduce port congestion. It gathers, analyzes, compares, and monitors port congestion around the world as well as provides a comprehensive view of shipping lanes. Armed with Port Intel information, global shippers are able to make better planning decisions upstream and meet customer delivery expectations.