Christmas canceled? Shipping delays will roll into 2022, Maersk warns
Maersk has warned the supply chain shortage will drag well into the new year – but reported record revenues as a result of spiking demand.
A shortfall in the number of truck drivers, particularly in Britain and the US, has caused bottlenecks at ports with hundreds of container vessels unable to be unloaded, the group said.
“The whole system,” chief executive Soren Skou said, “has become one gigantic bottleneck.”
“A too large proportion of our capacity is tied up lying waiting outside the ports,” Skou said, referring to 300 container vessels.
There has been a silver lining for the global shipping giant: record freight prices, pushed by the supply chain crisis, have driven Maersk’s strong third-quarter results, which is its most profitable quarter ever.
Maersk, which handles 20 percent of global container shipping, said it had added capacity to manage the soaring demands but that this would still not be enough to balance out the pressures of congestion at ports.
Last month the strain pushed Maersk to direct large vessels away from the UK’s main port in Felixstowe, which handles over a third of the UK’s shipping containers because it was full. The problem is a global one that has also created long queues at US ports in Los Angeles.
The congestion, Skou told the Financial Times, has been getting worse too as retailers have also struggled with rocketing post-Covid demand, referring to the jump from 60 to 80 ships waiting outside ports that Skou observed between his last two visits, about a month apart.
“More longshoremen and most importantly more truckers,” are the most urgently needed, Skou added.
In the meanwhile, retailers have warned consumers to get their Christmas shopping done early this year.
Many shipping containers at Felixstowe were reportedly spending around 10 days at the port before being collected, more than double the average timescale of four-and-a-half days, according to a trade magazine, The Grocer, last month.
In a statement last month though the chief executive of the UK Major Ports Group, Tim Morris, insisted that Christmas was not canceled, though admitted that there could be temporary measures taken and bumps as the industry try to ready itself for the countdown to Christmas, just over 50 days away.
Maersk, which employs around 80,000 people globally, took the opportunity to also announce its acquisition of Senator International, a German freight forwarding company, as the shipping company expands into air cargo.
The business said it plans to add three leased cargo planes to its fleet next year, and two newbuilding Boeing aircraft by 2024.