Port congestion resulting from reduced working hours and higher demand during Ramadan is causing shipping delays in the Middle East and Southeast Asia, prompting new liner surcharges.
Congestion at facilities in Saudi Arabia and Qatar reportedly is impacting operations at the main regional hub of Jebel Ali in Dubai, although port operator DP World would not confirm the reports.
“Congestion in any or multiple GCC (Gulf Cooperation Council) ports directly contributes to congestion in Jebel Ali,” said Manoj Baindur, chief operations officer in the Middle East for forwarder Damco. “At this time, both UAE and Qatar ports are congested more than normal and KSA (Saudi Arabia) is getting worse. Of late, we have seen announcements from a couple of carriers regarding implementation of congestion surcharges.”
Omar Shamsie, CEO of Maersk Line’s West and Central Asia operations, said civil strife in Yemen was adding to cargo backlogs in neighboring ports.
The Islamic holy month of fasting draws to a close this weekend when the Eid al Fitr holiday marks the end of Ramadan. Consumption of consumer goods generally increases during the month of dawn-to-sunset fasting and in preparation for Eid festivities. Productivity in many sectors also falls during Ramadan because of public holidays and reduced working hours.
Baindur said congestion at Gulf Cooperation Council countries was less of a problem this year than previously because Ramadan fell in the traditional holiday months of July and August when many people left the region. “Ramadan is usually associated with lower working hours in all of GCC countries, even if ports continue work, the productivity does drop,” he said. “The main impact comes from other government bodies such as customs which work half days resulting in rush and delays. The rate at which the cargo is collected is extremely slow.”
Southeast Asian ports also are being affected. “Importers and exporters are in a rush to get their goods imported or exported before the (Eid) holidays that celebrate the completion of Ramadan,” a CMA CGM spokesman said. “It effectively creates a surge of volume that in turn is creating congestion in terminals and on the roads. “Indonesia is the most impacted country in Southeast Asia. In Malaysia, the increase of volume is softer.”
Thomas Knudsen, Asia-Pacific CEO for Maersk, confirmed a “general rush” in Indonesia to get export cargoes shipped ahead of the traditional production slowdown and closure after Ramadan. “For Malaysia, there is no pre-Hari Raya (the name for Eid in some countries) rush, and port operations are as per normal. There are also no congestion issues at our hub port in Tanjung Pelepas.”
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