Local ports may see cargo delays, volume spike

Backlog of vessels will worsen and it could take 1 to 2 weeks to clear, says expert

by RAHIMI YUNUS / pic by AFP/HO/Suez Canal

CERTAIN ports in Malaysia may experience slight cargo movement delays and build up in cargo volume due to the gridlock build-up at the Suez Canal in Egypt, after a container vessel ran aground and blocked the waterway.

Port Klang Authority GM Captain K Subramaniam said Port Klang and Pelabuhan Tanjung Pelepas (PTP) have a few services calling European and Mediterranean ports with one to two daily calls eastbound and westbound.

Since transit through Suez is suspended, he said there will be ships anchored on either side of the canal awaiting to cross.

Subramaniam said an estimation of up to 200 ships are waiting on either side of the canal. He said the backlog of vessels will worsen and it could take one to two weeks to clear if the grounded vessel is not floated within the next few days.

Container ships take on average 12 days to reach Suez from Port Klang and vice versa.

“Given the expected bunching at Suez, it is likely we may have two to three vessels arriving at the same time at Port Klang and PTP.

“However, both Port Klang and PTP should be able to accommodate these vessels with the excess capacity and resources available at both ports,” Subramaniam told The Malaysian Reserve.

He said there will be a delay depending on how soon the canal is reopened. He added that some ships can increase their speed to make up for the lost time, but in any case, not more than one day.

“Shipping lines will need to plan their sailings, some may slow down, save fuel and speed up to catch the earliest when the canal reopens, no point arriving early and anchor,” he added.

Subramaniam said various types of cargoes are imported from Europe, including edible refrigerated goods, machinery, electronics, chemicals, others products and cargo.

The traffic along the Suez Canal has stopped for the past three days after a 220,000-tonne, 400m-long, and 59m-wide vessel — the Ever Given — become wedged across the waterway.

The ship was bound for Rotterdam, the Netherlands, from Yantian, China.

SeaIntelligence Consulting CEO Lars Jensen wrote on LinkedIn that the Suez Canal blockage will cause the delay of 110,000 twenty-foot equivalent units (TEUs) of cargo under an expectation of two days to clear the canal.

He said it will cause a spike of cargo into the main ports in Europe. On top of that, he said it simultaneously delays the movement of 55,000 TEUs of containers back to Asia per day — further adding delays to getting empty containers available in Asia.

The 20,000 TEUs Ever Given,having the size of a skyscraper, is now dubbed as an enormous “beached whale” blocking one of the world’s busiest ship routes.

Efforts are ongoing to refloat the Ever Given and some quarters raised concerns the operation could take weeks if the vessel needs to be unloaded.

At present, it is still unclear if there are any Malaysia-registered ships transporting oil, natural gas or other goods affected by the Suez Canal disruption.

Read our previous report here

Suez Canal blockage to ripple through global energy market