From Teslas to BMWs, cars pile up on land and sea in a German port


Krisztian Bocsi | Bloomberg | Getty Images

The port of Bremerhaven, Germany’s main roll on/roll off port and one of the largest automotive hubs in the world, is experiencing traffic jams.

The combination of the lack of drivers to move containers and cars out of the port and high volumes of regular trade is creating a pile-up of vehicles on land and at sea from automakers, including You’re here, StellantideBMWs, Renaults and Volvos.

Logistics officials consulted by CNBC called the auto export delays significant.

“These delays are huge,” said Andreas Braun, regional ocean product manager, EMEA, for Crane Worldwide Logistics. He said car imports to Bremerhaven from the United States and Mexico worked over a period of several months. “There is a three-month delay for BMW, where cars are waiting to be fitted with extras, especially with the iDrive touch controller.”

Bremerhaven is the fourth largest container port in Europe, with an annual capacity of over 5 million TEUs [twenty-foot equivalent unit] containers. It moves more than 1.7 million vehicles per year. Its overall congestion level, excluding autos, is currently “moderate,” according to CNBC’s supply chain heatmap for Europe.

Business intelligence firm VesselsValue told CNBC that operators have been told by the Port of Bremerhaven that there is a severe shortage of H&H (high and heavy cargo) drivers and roll over / roll over drivers to move incoming automobiles. Military exercises took up much of the terminal space usually reserved for operators.

There are also currently not enough ocean vehicle carriers, a situation which has led the shipping company Wallenius Wilhelmsen to refuse export bookings to the United States for the months of October and November, and possibly December if wait times resume, said Dan Nash, head of vehicle carriers and roll on/roll off carriers) at VesselsValue.

Its data shows that refusing auto exports has helped reduce port processing time, which has skyrocketed in recent months and is now on the rise again.

Nash told CNBC that the main challenges for automakers are Tesla’s imports from its Shanghai Gigafactory and light vehicles mainly imported from Japan, South Korea and China.

In addition to labor constraints in the key port, stretched vessel capacity adds to the delays.

The global fleet is about 13 ships short compared to December 2019, according to data from VesselsValue. “This is the result of excessive shipbreaking in the first year of Covid-19. This wait time is expected to last until 2024 when newly built ships will begin to be delivered,” Nash said. .

While prices have fallen in the global supply chain since the Covid spikes, “this should keep rates high as ships trade at full capacity,” he said. Growing demand for electric vehicles from China will put more pressure on supply and demand in the future, he added.

Another British strike is coming

At the port of Liverpool in the UK, a fourth strike is scheduled for November 14-21 if no agreement with port management is reached. Braun told CNBC that since these strikes are well organized, it’s time to plan and bypass the port, diverting trade elsewhere. Truckers and other workers who depend on the normal operation of the port will be hit harder, he said.

“If there are no containers coming in and out, they have nothing to do and they have to get out of container trucking and haul something else,” Braun said. “At the end of the day, less volume also means Peel Ports might have a good case for laying off workers.”

Peel Ports owns the Port of Liverpool, among others in the UK

Braun says Crane Worldwide Logistics is also preparing its customers for additional strikes being discussed at Felixstowe, the UK’s largest container port, which has seen a series of strikes and a possible strike at London Heathrow.


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