Sydney Empty Container Congestion Spikes – A Broken System

Sydney Empty Container Congestion Spikes

Empty shipping container congestion has spiked again in Sydney in recent weeks, leaving importers and their transport providers incurring added costs from empty de-hire delays, yard storage of empties, futile trucks trips, and additional administration.

The congestion and delays come off the back of a relatively positive month in June when over 80,000 TEU (Twenty Foot Equivalent Units) of empties were evacuated by shipping lines through Port Botany, with a Load/Discharge Ratio of 1.07.

Unfortunately since then, weather events in Sydney have led to unforeseen reductions in the movement of empty containers away from Port Botany, leaving the main Empty Container Parks (ECPs) at or near capacity. The ECPs have not been able to accept additional empty equipment for their client shipping lines and are asking importers / transport operators to contact shipping lines for de-hire alternatives, which are not forthcoming.

The empty container chain in NSW is unfortunately broken. It takes only slightly higher import volumes, caused in large part by off-window vessel arrivals and bunching, and larger container exchanges from those vessels, coupled with delays due to weather events or other issues impacting on ECP capacity, and the system becomes chaotic and unsustainable.

Trucks are literally driving from ECP to ECP looking for a de-hire location, only to be told by ECP operations staff that they aren’t accepting that equipment anymore due to capacity constraints, or that a redirection has been notified. This is despite the transport operator having a valid Notification Window slot booking through the Container chain truck-arrival notification system which aren’t being accepted in good faith.

CTAA has seen numerous email exchanges with shipping lines where they have been unable to advise an alternative de-hire option, yet they are also reluctant to issue immediate waivers or extensions to container detention fee policies even though they cannot offer adequate de-hire capacity.