Sydney Port Congestion – Update 6


We just wanted to try and keep everyone informed on the current shipping situation, as things are still not good with long delays being incurred and huge surcharges being applied.

Please refer to the below brief summary on several areas of shipping that are being impacted at the moment and don’t hesitate to get in touch with your local CFL contact if you have any questions of if you need more specific information regarding your shipments:

Coastal Shipping:
Coastal Shipping services are still suspended with no carriers currently taking any new bookings for this domestic service, although Maersk have taken one or two ad hoc bookings recently based on some available space they had. At this stage, it doesn’t look like Coastal Services will be back in operation until some time in the New Year or possibly even after the Chinese New Year break in February.

Auckland Port Congestion:
Unfortunately Auckland’s main port has also suffered a similar fate as Sydney with vessels being severely delayed trying to get a berth. Therefore, like Sydney, carriers have now started bypassing this port and are no longer taking any further bookings to Auckland and the carriers that are continuing to call Auckland, have imposed a Port Congestion Fee, similar to what’s still being applied in Sydney. These berthing delays in Auckland are also severely affecting many vessels schedules with ships being held up for long periods of time causing serious delays. Because of this, many carriers are changing their port rotations in transit and in some cases other ports are being omitted as well to try and make up for lost time. Export shipments from Australia to New Zealand are also adversely affected and we can advise that most shipping lines are now fully booked through December for shipments to New Zealand, with only shipments that have been forward booked well in advance being moved. Some LCL space is still available, however this is also filling up fast and airfreight to New Zealand also has delays now, as many sea shipments have been converted to air and as a result all flights are heavily overbooked.

Shipping to Sydney:
Shipping to Sydney is still quite difficult with various carriers continuing to not accept bookings to this port, those that are accepting bookings still have a Port Congestion Fee in place. Although the delays at the port have improved somewhat, many vessels are continuing to be diverted to other ports and some carriers are still having their vessels bypass Sydney altogether. But the biggest issue for shipping at the moment is the current situation with trying to get space for bookings not just to Sydney, but for most Australia and New Zealand ports from most origins in Asia.
All vessels are severely overbooked with delays of several weeks being incurred trying to secure a booking and all transhipment ports are experiencing backlogs and long delays as well. Because of this oversupply of cargo and the lack of available space and equipment, the carriers are able to keep increasing their rates with additional surcharges continually being added. Carriers are now even charging a premium rate for cargo to move earlier and they’ll ship these containers at a higher rate on the next sailing and roll the containers that are already booked to depart on the current rates. LCL freight costs have also increased dramatically and airfreight rates are still at the high COVID levels due to the lack of International flights coming to Australia.    

Shortage of Equipment:
Due to the ongoing lack of empty containers being returned back overseas, there is still a serious shortage of equipment being available for exporters in Asia. These shortages are affecting bookings, as the shippers have to wait for equipment to become available before they can arrange their export shipment. This situation varies from port to port, with some areas in China being affected much worse than other ports.

Empty Container Parks (ECP):
The ECP congestion situation in Sydney has been critical for some time and is not improving. Sydney has over 50,000 empty containers, waiting to be repositioned. Empty volumes keep increasing with every vessel arrival, as discharged import containers, exceed the export numbers that are loaded back onto the vessels before they depart.
The significant numbers of vessels that have omitted Sydney’s Port Botany have also restricted the removal of empty containers which are backed up and overflowing in ECPs. Simply, at times the ECPs are full and just can’t accept more empty containers, which is frankly unacceptable and unsustainable. Cargo owners are incurring extra staging costs as transport operators incur futile trips, lifts & storage charges at third party holding yards.
As a result of the ECP situation, transport company yards are becoming clogged as they stage the empties that have nowhere to be returned.
We have been billing the Shipping Lines on your behalf for these additional costs; however the lines have rejected these and referred any additional costs back to the cargo owner.   

Container Detention:
Despite the lack of space at the ECP to accept empty returns, Shipping Lines have not been extending detention free time. Also, shippers are having to utilise whatever space they can when making bookings overseas and they’re not able to negotiate extended detention free days. The result has been cargo owners are at greater risk of shipping line detention charges in this congested peak period. Where we can prove that ECPs would not accept the empty CFL will fight on your behalf to seek a review of the detention charges.

Biosecurity Update:
The combination of peak season volumes, Brown Marmorated Stink Bug season & the Khapra beetle threat, has stretched the workload of Biosecurity staff. It is not uncommon for the inspection waiting list to exceed 8 days, for imported food inspections and random biosecurity inspections. 

Rest assured CFL staff are working tirelessly to navigate the logistical challenges facing our valued customers.