Automotive Logisics — 2022-11-15
Vehicle congestion is reported to be easing at the German port of Bremerhaven following the relocation by BLG Logistics of vehicles to a nearby airport.
BLG provides all vehicle handling at the port and also provides container logistics services as part of the Eurogate Group. It also handles inland transport by road, rail and inland waterway.
BLG provides finished vehicle logistics services at the port of Bremerhaven
Ro-ro vessels delivering vehicles from China, Japan and South Korea have been delayed for the past few weeks because storage at the port is at maximum capacity and throughput has been affected. That capacity problem is thanks to a large number of vehicles sitting in port storage awaiting the fitment of final parts, including semiconductors. Combined with what BLG described as untimely vessel scheduling, it has resulted in a fill rate at the port in excess of 85%. BLG has storage for 100,000 vehicles at the port and numbers were above 95,000 in recent weeks. The increased dwell time has hampered normal operations.
Labour shortages at the port are also affecting throughput and military exercises have also taken up terminal space.
To mitigate the congestion, BLG has moved a percentage of those vehicles off site to Ahlhorn airport and is in talks with carriers in Asia about smoothing out delivery operations. Ahlhorn, a former military airport, has previously been used to store vehicles because of import bottlenecks.
Long dwell times are causing congestion at some of the other main vehicle handling ports in Europe, including at the port of Zeebrugge, which was recently reported to have been forced to divert car deliveries to Le Havre because of capacity issues caused by carmakers storing vehicles at the terminals.
The movement of finished vehicles to and from European ports is also being affected by a reduction of capacity on the road and rail network. That is because of a number of factors.
On the roads there is a shortage of equipment and drivers. The majority of finished vehicle haulage firms reduced capacity to match demand during Covid and are now trying to reinvest in assets at a time when raw material prices are increasing steeply. Estimates by the Association of European Vehicle Logistics points toward a lack of 1,500 trucks, equal to 20% of capacity.
There is also a well-documented crisis in driver recruitment. An already ageing driver pool has been further reduced by many drivers leaving the vehicle haulage sector during the Covid disruption for other sectors. Driver retention and recruitment has also been affected by the war in Ukraine, with drivers from Ukraine returning to fight in the war.
Added to this, many smaller operators that worked as subcontractors have left the finished vehicle logistics market and gone into general haulage.
On rail there has been a reduction in car-carrying wagons as well as traction engines. However, the real issue is infrastructure in Germany. The country is belatedly investing €100bn in track maintenance and there are reported to be 1,000 major sites of construction, meaning track closures and diversions. The work on the German rail freight network is expected to take 10 years to complete.