This data marketing report by Portcast analyses the past, present and future movement of global sea freight. We use various sets of metrics to measure the performance of ports and other links of supply chains in the market. The metrics featured in this report are ‘Port Congestion’ measured by the median spent by ship waiting for a berth and ‘Container Dwell Times’.

Port Congestion

Definition: the number of hours or days that container ships wait at anchorage outside any port before they can berth inside the port to conduct port operations. 


Around the third quarter of 2021, US West Coast ports went through a stage of extreme port congestion with ships experiencing upto 410 hours of delays before getting a berth at the three key ports in the Western Seaboard ports of – Los Angeles, Long Beach, and Seattle. 

Although the dire situation in US ports, especially the West Coast has improved since Oct 2021 due of the reduction in volumes, additional working hours, and labor force increases, as per Portcast’s predictive engine, the market can expect a new spike in port congestion. This spike is expected to happen on the back of the surge of ships coming to the US from China once the lockdowns in Shanghai are removed,” said Nidhi Gupta, CEO and Co-Founder of Portcast.

USA Port Congestion Graph (Historical and Predicted) - WK 40 2021 - WK 28 2022

While our predictions show a 37% increase in congestion in Week 28 of 2022 at the US West Coast ports compared to current Week 20 of 2022, the congestion is unlikely to reach the extreme levels seen in October 2021,” added Gupta. 

While congestion on the US East Coast appears to stabilise from early April (Week 13) there are concerns this might not of disruptions if an agreement is not reached in the ILWU/Pacific Maritime Association labour negotiations taking place before the 30th of June deadline.


While this is promising for the state of supply chains in 2022 for the USA, much will depend on the current situation in China due to the lockdowns which have become unpredictable and more widespread.

Chinese ports showed a 78% decrease in congestion between Week 1 and 13 of 2022 after the lifting of the lockdowns in Yantian and Hong Kong but saw a 115% increase on the back of the new lockdowns in Shanghai from Week 13.

China Port Congestion Graph (Historical and Predicted) - WK 40 2021 - WK 28 2022

The Far East/Southeast Asian ports are not showing any undue congestion with the predictive engines not showing any cause for concern with the waiting times remaining stable.

FE/SEA Port Congestion Graph (Historical and Predicted) - WK 48 2021 - WK 28 2022

EU and UK

Ports in the EU/UK showed increased congestion in March 2022 caused by the impact of the Russia/Ukraine conflict which left many containers bound for Russia and Ukraine stranded in EU and UK ports. 

Year-end volumes, container shortages and spillover from the Yantian and Hong Kong lockdowns resulted in EU and UK ports experiencing port congestion across 2021, continuing into 2022.

EU/UK Port Congestion Graph (Historical and Predicted) - WK 40 2021 - WK 28 2022

EU ports experienced a 151% increase in port congestion between Week 40 and 49 of 2021, dropping 28% in Week 6 of 2022 but increasing to a 30-hour delay in Week 12 of 2022. However, the predictions are that the berthing delays will stabilise around 20 hours which is still almost double of what the levels were in 2021.

UK ports on the other hand, had a big bullwhip effect on congestion reflecting an 81% decrease in port congestion between Week 41-44 of 2021 before going up by 683% between Week 44-49 of 2022 due to the above-mentioned reasons. The bullwhip continues right into Week 20 of 2022 and the predictions are that it should stabilise at around 24 hours of delay which was lower than what it was in 2021.

Container Dwell Times

Definition: Container dwell times is the period that a container sits in the port area awaiting clearance and delivery in the case of imports and loading on the ship in the case of exports

Import full container dwell times showed mixed results in March 2022 in various regions. US ports topped the list of ports that had a higher-than-average import container dwell time in March 2022 at 6.03 days. US EC and US WC ports showed a consistent increase in import dwell times compared to previous months. 

The US’s top two container ports of LA and Long Beach showed an increase in import container dwell along with Savannah on the East Coast while Seattle, New York and Houston showed a good improvement in the clearing of import containers. 

It must however be noted that the issue of import dwell time is quite complex and many factors influence these metrics. Truck shortage, truck driver shortage, fleet owners not sending trucks to markets where there are a lot of deadheads. 

In the USA especially, many truckers have been diverted to depots 30-40 miles away to off-load empty containers without truckers receiving any compensation for returning empty from that distance wasting fuel and time. 

In Europe, there was a higher than usual import dwell in March 2022 attributed to containers bound for Russia/Ukraine stuck in EU ports awaiting instructions considering the trade sanctions.

Full Import Container Dwell Time Graph - Regional


Port conditions are yo-yo-ing across the globe. The extreme congestion seen in the US ports from the second quarter of 2021 seems to have been contained for the time being while the main ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach continue to break monthly and quarterly handling volumes. Thanks to these volumes, the San Pedro Bay port complex entered the top ten list of ports in terms of cargo volume handled in 2021. 

European ports which have been quite efficient all along due to partial or complete automation have been faring well with congestion although in terms of their standards it has been a rough ride for them as well with sporadic increases in port congestion and container dwell times. EU port performances have come under pressure in the last few months due to the backlog created by Ukrainian boxes stuck in the EU ports and the impact of this could be felt soon.

The COVID-19 situation in China remains a big unknown as the virus continues its spread across China impacting normal life as the Government battles to control the spread. Wall Street Journal has reported that around 45 Chinese cities which account for 40% of the country’s economic output and a quarter of China’s population are under lockdown due to the increase in infections.

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