Port congestion likely to continue throughout 2005

Congestion at North American and European ports will continue throughout 2005, according to market analyst firm Transport Intelligence. The ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach are likely to see growth on the same scale as the 14% achieved in 2004, according to the Pacific Maritime Association. Those ports account for 80% of Asian imports to the U.S.

The strong growth in volumes is expected to stretch beyond the ports themselves and also place a strain on rail links. The result of congestion, says Transport Intelligence, is that ships have had to wait several days to unload cargo, delaying delivery and adding to inventory carrying costs of U.S. manufacturers and retailers.

Capacity problems have shifted elsewhere as shippers sought alternatives, such as moving cargo to East Coast ports via the Panama Canal, or landing cargo in Mexico or Canada and moving it into the U.S. by rail.

European ports have not experienced the same level of crisis, says Transport Intelligence, but they are reaching capacity. As a result of the heavy volumes in Europe, freight has been diverted from the U.K.'s south coast ports to European ports. This has allowed freight to move to via short sea shipping to some of the U.K.'s smaller ports, thus avoiding some road congestion.

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