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Ship congestion slows container volumes at Seattle-Tacoma in October

Container throughput at the Ports of Seattle and Tacoma in October dropped from September as the ports had to delay ships from unloading due to a lack of available yard space.

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The ports handled a combined 313,430 twenty-foot equivalents in October, down 5.5% from September but up 5.6% from October 2020, the Northwest Seaport Alliance said Nov. 17.

Total international volumes in October slid 3.4% from the previous month to 251,792 TEUs, while domestic trade with Alaska and Hawaii fell 11.8% from September to 61,638 TEUs.

Copenhagen-based shipping line A.P. Moller-Maersk said Oct. 26 that it was splitting its Trans-Pacific Alaska services into two services starting Nov. 1 — one that calls on Seattle weekly and another that calls on Dutch Harbor in Alaska's Aleutian Islands monthly.

"Vessel wait times at the Port of Seattle are still averaging [about] 21 days," Maersk said in a Nov. 12 customer advisory. "Yard congestion remains the primary constraint as bottlenecks at shippers' warehouses continue to impede the pickup of import containers."

There were five container ships at anchor waiting to berth at Seattle-Tacoma, while seven were moored in port Nov. 17, according to cFlow, Platts trade flow software.

Geneva-based shipping line MSC said Oct. 27 that it would temporarily omit Seattle on its Eagle service to the Pacific Northwest as delays there were affecting schedule reliability.

Hamburg-based Hapag-Lloyd also announced that it would omit Seattle on at least four sailings of its Pacific North Loop 3 service from Nov. 8 onward, calling on Oakland in the meantime.

Platts Container Rate 13 – North Asia to West Coast North America – was assessed at $8,400/FEU Nov. 17, down from an all-time high of $9,000/FEU at the start of October.