Hinterland delays creep up

hinterland disruption Fewer ports are now experiencing normal cross-border trucking operations. Photo: Michael Gaida from Pixabay

There has been an increase in delays on the intermodal connections between ports and the hinterlands, including cross-border cargo traffic, a new report finds.

November seems to present a turning point, found the IAPH-WPSP Week 45 Barometer report. While in October none of the ports were reporting delays (6-24 hours) or heavy delays (> 24 hours) in cross-border road transportation, this figure bounced up to 16.3% in November (week 45). The report explained that while this percentage is far below the figures of more than 40% in weeks 15 and 16, it shows that fewer ports are now experiencing normal cross-border trucking operations.

Co-author of the report, professor Theo Notteboom, commented: “The reopening of markets and the current wave of restocking/stockpiling have resulted in a surge of containerised flows in recent weeks, with numerous ports in Europe and North America reporting record traffic volumes on the import side, while many key Asian ports are also seeing strong recovery of the volumes compared to the first half of the year.

“This sudden surge in volumes on several of the big trade routes and mass container repositioning back to Asia is testing the capacity limits of ports/terminals and the inland transport systems, leading to disruptions in hinterland transport connectivity in some ports.”

Return to disruption?

The situation is also deteriorating for trucks arriving or leaving the port: in October 94% of ports reported normal activity versus some 88% in weeks 29 and 36, 78% in week 21 and only 63% in week 15. In November, this figure is down to 86%.

Some 14.6% of ports face disruptions in rail services, up from the record low figure of 4.9% in October (week 41). The situation for barge services is also going in the same direction: this month 83% of ports are reporting normal operations compared to 96% last month.

Cargo volumes robust

Themajority of ports reported either stable or a rebound of cargo volumes for the containers, bulk and liquid bulk markets compared to volumes for September and October last year.

However, in some cases, respondents from ports reported a significant 25% to 50% decrease of mega-vessel calls indicating possible structural changes in shipping networks might be underway.

The potential of structural changes is also present in reports by Latin America ports, as some of them reported that although container vessels calls have decreased, containerised cargo has already started to surge.


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