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HomeInformationExport container dwell times soar at main ports globally as berthing delays...

Export container dwell times soar at main ports globally as berthing delays bite

  • Export containers are building up not just in the ports of LA/LB but at many major ports globally
  • Dozens of ships are slow steaming way off the coast of Southern California and 37 container ships are currently waiting in the immediate vicinity to unload at San Pedro Bay ports, as container dwell times begin to rise again
  • Export containers are arriving at major ports long before their actual sailing date, and taking twice as long to leave the port as import containers

Supply chain visibility data tracked by project44 indicates that berthing delays are causing a huge build-up of export containers within port terminals and creating a big spike in container dwell times globally. 

Berthing delay is defined as the time it takes a ship between its arrival at anchorage till the time it is berthed to commence cargo operations. If there is a queue of ships waiting for a berth, the ships wait at anchorage until it is their turn to berth. 

According to latest data from project44, export containers at the Port of Los Angeles took an average of 11.85 days to be loaded on a ship between October 2021 and November 2021 while Port of Long Beach took an average of 10.98 days. 

With export containers taking about twice as long to move through US West Coast ports as import containers, the problem appears to be getting containers off docks and onto ships. 

Based on project44’s data and analysis, long export container dwell times occur when ships berth days after their scheduled berthing times. While these ships wait at anchor, containers that were delivered on time languish at the docks, waiting for their arrival. 

If a carrier advises its customers to deliver export containers at a certain date and time based on the ETA/berthing schedule of the ship and that ship’s berthing is then delayed, then there will be a build-up of export containers waiting inside the port for the ship,” said Josh Brazil, VP of Data Insights at project44.  

This appears to be what’s happening, based on the data we’re seeing. Export containers are subsequently waiting in ports for ships, which are taking longer than expected to arrive. 

As of this release, while dozens of container vessels are slow steaming far off the California coast, we are seeing close to 37 container ships close to shore waiting to berth at these ports and it’s these long queues that are pushing up dwell times on export containers,” said Brazil. 


berthing delays - Los Angeles - Shipping and Freight Resource


While vessel traffic data tracked by project44 shows a drop in vessel count directly outside the ports of Long Beach and Los Angeles in the 2nd half of Nov 2021, Josh Brazil, VP of Data Insights at project44, warns that this drop could be due to the change in definition of “the “waiting zone” based on the new berthing queue system implemented by the San Pedro Bay ports.”  

“The definition of “berth waiting time” has indeed continually changed throughout this ordeal. For our measurement we’ve used a generous 80 nautical mile (92 miles) radius out from the port on anchored container ships and container ships and with vessels <5 knots speed.” adds Brazil. However, at least about 50 vessels are slow steaming way off the coast gradually making their way to San Pedro Bay which essentially changes the definition of “waiting” all the way back to the port of origin.”   

The berthing delays however are impacting the container dwell times for export containers globally.  

Container dwell time measures the time that:  

  • containers spend in port after being discharged from a ship until it leaves the port for delivery to clients, in the case of imports  
  • containers spend in port after being delivered to the port until they are loaded onto ships, in the case of exports.  

For the month of November 2021, export container dwell time data from project44 has consistently tracked more than twice the dwell time of import containers.  

In Los Angeles, on the 1st of November the export container dwell times were 11 days, versus 5.04 days for imports. At the end of November, the disparity was even more pronounced, with export containers dwelling 17.49 days versus 6.42 days on imports – more than 2.5 times.  


berthing delays export and import container dwell times - Los Angeles - Shipping and Freight Resource


Long Beach seems to have outperformed Los Angeles in regard to dwell time with an export dwell time of 6.83 days and import dwell time of 5.49 days on 1st of November, but this has increased dramatically to an export dwell time of 15.16 days and an import dwell time of 7.97 days at the end of November 2021 which has been the highest it has ever been.  


berthing delays export and import container dwell times - Long Beach - Shipping and Freight Resource


Shipping is a global ecosystem and while the US port data shows a dramatic increase in the export dwell times, many of the other main ports tracked around the world paints a different picture with South East Asian ports like Singapore and Hong Kong showing marked decreases in export container dwell times. 

berthing delays export and import container dwell times - Singapore - Shipping and Freight Resource 

berthing delays export and import container dwell times - Hong Kong - Shipping and Freight Resource


This means that at these ports the berthing delays are not as pronounced as it is in the USA where export containers are reaching the ports in time but simply not being able to be loaded on board the intended ships as the ship does not have a berth yet,” added Brazil.  

Chinese base ports on the other hand are showing more or less similar trends in export and import dwell times, but with more fluctuations month on month.  

berthing delays export and import container dwell times - Shanghai - Shipping and Freight Resource

berthing delays export and import container dwell times - Ningbo - Shipping and Freight Resource 

Rotterdam, one of the main ports in Europe and Jebel Ali, one of the main ports in the Middle East respectively, reflected a hybrid situation with export dwell times not as bad as the USA but not as good as the South East Asia/China ports. 

Rotterdam had an average of 6.76 days export dwell time and 2.91 days import dwell time across 2021 while Jebel Ali had an average of 6.27 days export dwell time and 3.26 days across 2021 

berthing delays export and import container dwell times - Rotterdam - Shipping and Freight Resource

berthing delays export and import container dwell times - Jebel Ali - Shipping and Freight Resource 

Disclaimer:The data referenced in this release is sourced from project44’s freight visibility platform, based on the logistics indicators that the platform tracks. The sample data sets referenced do not include all freight movement data tracked by other entities. Data from project44’s platform reflects a statically significant sample size to draw conclusions. 


About project44 

project44 is the world’s leading advanced visibility platform for shippers and logistics service providers. project44 connects, automates and provides visibility into key transportation processes to accelerate insights and shorten the time it takes to turn those insights into actions. Leveraging the power of the project44 cloud-based platform, organizations increase operational efficiencies, reduce costs, improve shipping performance, and deliver an exceptional Amazon-like experience to their customers. Connected to thousands of carriers worldwide and having comprehensive coverage for all ELD and telematics devices on the market, project44 supports all transportation modes and shipping types, including Air, Parcel, Final-Mile, Less-than-Truckload, Volume Less-than-Truckload, Groupage, Truckload, Rail, Intermodal, and Ocean. In 2021, project44 was named a Leader among Real-Time Transportation Visibility Providers in Gartner’s Magic Quadrant. To learn more, 


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Hariesh Manaadiar
Hariesh Manaadiar
I am Hariesh Manaadiar, the Founder of Shipping and Freight Resource.. I have been in the dynamic shipping and freight industry for over three decades and have worked in several sectors.. I share my experiences and knowledge of the industry through this blog for those looking for help in the industry.. Stay subscribed for more free useful content about shipping, freight, maritime, logistics, supply chain and trade..


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