BRUSSELS: Rotterdam and Antwerp risk a return to the congestion that blighted the leading European container ports in 2014 after a major barge operator warned it might levy a surcharge in response to “serious” bottlenecks.
Barges have to wait up to 92 hours to process cargoes in Rotterdam and face delays of up to 72 hours in Antwerp, according to Contargo. The German barge operator said it expects the delays in processing, which began at the beginning of the year, to persist through the coming months.
Increasing numbers of containers, and the usual personnel shortages during the summer months, make it unlikely that the situation will improve in the short term,” the operator said.
Contargo warned customers it has no alternative but to introduce a congestion surcharge if the situation does not improve.
The company, which ships around 2 million TEUs a year between deep-sea container terminals and the European hinterland, said it has incurred “substantial” additional costs due to the great volume of containers and capacity constraints at individual terminals.
Contargo’s charter costs have risen due to the longer time spent at the ports while it has had to hire additional tonnage to bridge the waiting times of the vessels.
Customers are also transferring their business to other transport modes as Contargo can no longer guarantee acceptance and delivery dates for containers.
Another aggravating factor is that information about the delays is not being reliably communicated, so that it is very difficult to predict how long the vessels will have to remain in port,” the company said.
Contargo alerted shippers to delays in early February at the ECT Euromax and ECT Delta terminals in Rotterdam which were at the center of the five-month-long congestion in 2014 that triggered a wave of surcharges and cancellations and diversions of deep sea services at Europe’s largest container hub.
The Rotterdam port authority implemented a series of measures to eliminate congestion at the ECT terminals including diverting containers to smaller facilities to be “bundled” for onward shipments to larger terminals.
The authority said a key cause of congestion was the arrival of ultra-large container ships outside their scheduled times, which had knock-on effect on hinterland barge movements. Barges account for around 35 percent of traffic between Rotterdam and its hinterland.