Suez Canal Incident: Logistics Chain Preparing For Surge In Incoming Vessels

Now that the container ship blocking the Suez Canal has been refloated, this key East-West trade route has once again opened for business. In response, the Port of Rotterdam Authority has initiated proactive consultation with the relevant stakeholders (shipping companies, terminal operators, inland terminals, hinterland carriers) to determine how to handle the forecast surge in incoming vessels as smoothly as possible. While this is undoubtedly a challenging undertaking, we still expect to manage this influx quite effectively – provided we make the right preparations.

To guarantee the smooth handling of ships’ cargo, it is important to keep capacity utilisation at the terminals at a manageable level. Since the port expects an exceptionally high influx of vessels and freight, it is important to work towards swift circulation, as well as an optimal balance between import and export flows.

For example, the Port Authority will be making agreements with the deep sea container terminals regarding the delivery of export containers. After all, the premature delivery of export containers makes unnecessary demands on capacity that otherwise could be put to good use, and limits the seaward handling of import containers. In addition, containers that arrive in Rotterdam need to be moved on from the terminals as quickly as possible.

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Since the terminals won’t be able to help everyone at the same time, we are also calling on all parties in the logistics chain to check whether they have any opportunities to adapt their processes in the interim. In addition, these parties are urged to exchange data in a timely, complete and correct manner, allowing other partners in the chain to proactively anticipate changes as they develop. For example, while deep sea terminals operate 24/7, many container recipients have different business hours.

Ship delays as a result of the Suez blockade

The day that salvage crews managed to free the container vessel Ever Given, around 60 ships had planned to sail to Rotterdam via the Suez Canal. This total was made up of 56 container vessels, 3 tankers and 1 car carrier.

At the time of Ever Given’s refloating, around 20 of these vessels lay at anchor, while 6 ships’ captains had decided to detour via the Cape of Good Hope.

The progress of ships arriving in the port of Rotterdam within the next 48 hours can be monitored via the Shiptracker application.

Paced recovery

According to information provided to the Port Authority by third parties, increasingly small groups of ships destined for Europe will be passing through the Suez Canal in the period ahead, each at a 12-15 hour interval. This measure will reduce the likelihood of extreme peak loads at the vessels’ ports of call.

By now, 7 of the aforementioned 60 ships have resumed their voyage to Rotterdam via the Suez Canal. Normally speaking, the port of Rotterdam receives an average of 80 ocean-going vessels per day. Around 10% of this total (i.e. 7 ocean-going vessels on average) travel to Rotterdam via the Suez Canal.

Various digital applications enable shipping companies and ship’s agents to plan port calls as efficiently as possible. We also offer an online information service to importers that wish to monitor in the weeks ahead when their container has been unloaded in the port and forwarded to its final destination.

Limits in terms of available capacity

Together, ports worldwide are limited to a given length of quay walls that can be used to accommodate visiting ships. Deep sea terminals have a more or less fixed fleet of cranes that are able to load and unload incoming shipments. To a large extent, these limiting conditions determine the speed at which incoming ships can be handled at the ports. Likewise, there’s a limit to the available capacity of service providers like linesmen and pilots. The stark increase in port calls expected after the reopening of the Suez Canal will inevitably lead to delays in the handling of ships’ visits in the affected ports – including the port of Rotterdam.


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