Asian ports hit by Red Sea backlogs


The Red Sea crisis is challenging Asian ports as congestion with “echoes of the pandemic” is seen in Asia and the Middle East with analysts warning backlogs could also spread to European facilities.

Container ship diversions avoiding the Red Sea and Suez Canal are in a continuous state of flux, changing port calls and vessel sizes as carriers adjust Asia to Europe rotations to cope with demand.

These fluctuations, along with unexpected weather events and higher volumes, and holidays, including Ramadan and Eid Al-Fitr, have created challenging conditions for port operators.

Eleanor Hadland, ports’ analyst at Drewry Shipping Consultants told Container News some congestion hotspots emerging, as vessels arrive at ports outside of their docking windows.

The markets where there has been the greatest impact have fewer mainline vessel calls – but each call is taking longer - indicating a greater cargo exchange – which occurs when carriers consolidate cargo in specific markets onto fewer routes.

“For example, whereas Asia-Middle East cargo may previously have been handled on a wayport basis (i.e. dropped off / collected at key hubs on Asia-Europe trade) this is now being consolidated onto specific Asia-Middle East routes leading to larger parcel sizes being handled at the main ports,” explained Hadland.

One of the most significant ports impacted is Jebel Ali which has seen dwell for ships larger than 12,500 TEU increase from about 1.5 days in Q4 2023 to 2.5 days by the first quarter of this year, increasing pressure on trucking and port storage facilities.

A DP World spokesperson said, “Jebel Ali Port has experienced a temporary increase in vessel arrivals due to recent severe weather and changes to regional shipping routes. We're working diligently with our partners to ensure efficient operations and minimise any effects on schedules. All major shipping lines continue their on-time arrivals at Jebel Ali Port.”

Consultancy MDS Transmodal analysed the number and size of vessels operating in the Asia to Europe trades, including direct Asia to Europe services, those with wayport calls and the Middle East, Indian Subcontinent to Asia trades in an attempt to understand the challenges being faced.