No sign of promised improvement in waiting times for European barge operators

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Congestion along northern Europe’s inland waterways is proving erratic as we enter the third week of 2022, with bright spots that could be a ‘mirage’.

Contargo has recorded two successive weeks of declining wait times – a December high of 75 hours now at 56 hours – but a source said The Loadstar they had seen no change in loading and unloading times.

“We are in a fixed contract with one of the five major carriers, repositioning empties in Rotterdam and other Dutch inland terminals,” the source said. “The average downtime is about three days, and we haven’t really seen any movement or improvement.

“Endpoints aren’t designed to handle the volumes they see, and that’s what’s causing these issues.”

Fog, which descended on Rotterdam on Friday and canceled services for around 24 hours, compounded problems for barge operators, adding to the backlog.

As the fog has lifted, uncertainty over how terminals and barge operators intend to resolve the issue of multi-day delays, which sometimes stretch to weeks, has been dragging on for decades. years.

“When these big ocean vessels unload at overcrowded terminals, we’re talking about 85-90% full, it creates severe disruption and reduced production that leaves ships on hold,” a source said. “Then they occupy the mooring space and prevent other ships from docking that could unload and load quickly.

“The fundamental problem is that none of the European terminals are suitable for handling these ultra-large container ships, and this has an impact on inland services, which were already struggling before the ULCVs.”

And as if to make matters worse, there are fears that new government quarantine rules, following the emergence of Omicron, could reduce the number of port workers.

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