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Carriers' use of extra ships fails to cope with surge in US imports from Asia

WHILE carriers deploy extra-loader vessels and launch new weekly services in the eastbound trans-Pacific trade, US importers continue to struggle to secure equipment and vessel space at Asian load ports through January

06 January 2021 - 19:00
WHILE carriers deploy extra-loader vessels and launch new weekly services in the eastbound trans-Pacific trade, US importers continue to struggle to secure equipment and vessel space at Asian load ports through January.

That's because US imports from Asia each month are increasing 20 to 30 per cent year over year, and even the new capacity that is coming online will be stretched to the limit.



Executive vice president sales and marketing at Unique Logistics International, Christian Sur, commented: 'If you're trying to get a booking, and you don't have a fixed deal in place, you're probably booking three to four weeks out.'



West Coast ports handle about 60 per cent of US imports from Asia, according to PIERS. In a recent issue of Sunday Spotlight published by Sea-Intelligence Maritime Analysis, CEO Alan Murphy said laden imports through West Coast ports would jump about 30 per cent in both December and January year over year.



Carriers have deployed dozens of extra-loader from Asia to the United States in the past two months, mostly to the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach, but also to East Coast ports, and are announcing additional extra-loaders for January.



The Southern California port complex handled 31 extra-loaders in December after 26 in November, according to the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach. That's on top of more than 35 extra-loaders deployed earlier in the fall. Carriers notified Long Beach of seven additional extra-loaders planned so far for January, and Los Angeles said it is expecting six extra-loaders, three of which were scheduled for December but have been pushed into January because of port congestion. That's in addition to the regularly scheduled 27 weekly trans-Pacific services to Los Angeles-Long Beach, reports IHS Media.



East Coast ports also reported receiving extra-loaders over the past two months, with more scheduled for January. A Savannah spokesperson said the port handled seven extra-loaders in December and 14 in November, with seven scheduled so far for January. Charleston reported handling five extra-loaders in November-December. So far, none have been scheduled there for January. New York-New Jersey said it does not collect data on extra-loaders, although an industry source said the largest East Coast port complex has had 'a few extra-loaders' the past two months.



Imports from Asia have been so strong in recent months that carriers have added some calls at secondary East Coast gateways, such as the Port of Baltimore.



The dozens of extra-loaders deployed so far to the East and West coasts have been filled mostly with imports by national retailers, large beneficial cargo owners (BCOs), and shippers of personal protective equipment (PPE), and medical supplies, non-vessel-operating common carriers (NVOs) said.



'It's mostly reserved for the carriers' main base customers,' Mr Sur said. Smaller importers and NVOs are offered slots only after the core customers have been accommodated, 'but it's a last-minute thing,' he said.


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