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Asian port congestion worst in decades, slot swapping blamed by MCC chief

SCHEDULE reliability has been blown away by Asian port congestion, with Manila being the worst, but Hong Kong, Shanghai, Qingdao, Incheon and Ho Chi Minh City also badly affected, reports Containerisation International.

MCC Transport CEO Tim Wickmann said part of the problem was slot swapping, with cargo for several carriers on one ship meant it needed to be separated before transfer to each carrier's feeder, barge, truck or train. Have been in this business for more than 24 years and I don think I have experienced anything as challenging as the last six months, said Mr Wickmann.

You start by waiting, and after two or three days you wonder how you will get back on schedule. So you make fewer moves than you were planning and this affects vessel utilisation, or you simply omit calls? he said. Asked about a congestion surcharge, he said it would not work because of the competitive nature of the intra-Asia trade and because the level of congestion changes.

Customers need to get used to the fact that fast transit times are a thing of the past because services with fast transit times don't have a congestion buffer and that means that every time there is a delay we can meet our schedules, said Mr Wickmann.

MCC sales chief Naresh Potty feared worse was yet to come because the typhoon season had not started.

Mr Potty said it was hard for short-haul carriers to accelerate service and to make up for lost time because shorter transit times mean less slack, which long-haul carriers had in abundance.

It also creates a snowball effect where you still have the containers in the port waiting collection and by omitting ports you worsen the situation in transshipment ports,?Mr Potty said, adding that left-behind boxes also accumulate dwell time charges.