The Mediterranean Ports: An Inside Look at the Increasing Congestion

Ports around the Western Mediterranean at Full Capacity

Container ports around the Western Mediterranean are nearing full capacity, raising the risk of increased inventory costs and component shortages for European retailers and manufacturers in the latest challenge to the region’s supply chains.

Increased Traffic and Congestion

Port officials have reported dealing with full storage depots while awaiting ship arrivals following Houthi attacks on vessels in the Red Sea, leading to increased traffic at ports such as Algeciras and Barcelona in Spain and Tangeri-Med in Morocco.

The Danish shipping giant Maersk recently warned customers that the “yard density” at the port of Barcelona has increased due to high capacity handling significantly more transshipment moves than usual.
They also highlighted struggles at terminals in Algeciras and Tangeri.

Challenges Faced by Port Terminals

Alonso Luque, CEO of TTI Algeciras, one of the two container terminals in Algeciras, stated that their facility was “fairly full” and managed to avoid severe congestion only by limiting business volume.

Most major container shipping companies operating on the Asia-Europe route have redirected traffic around the Cape of Good Hope instead of the Suez Canal following Houthi attacks supported by Iran.

Supply Chain Disruptions

Alternative routes have forced shipping companies to devise new agreements for goods traveling between Asia and ports in Italy, Greece, and Turkey.
The disruptions have led to congestion and delays, potentially causing companies to hold extra inventory.

Impact on Auto Terminals

Auto handling terminals are also experiencing severe congestion due to the increase in exported vehicles from Asia to Europe and North America, coupled with a slowdown in vehicle sales.

While Algeciras and Tangeri-Med have not released traffic statistics this year, Barcelona recorded a 17% increase in container movements in February compared to the same month last year.

Future Outlook

Many terminal operators anticipate ongoing issues as services continue to be diverted.
Nabil Boumezzough, chairman of Tangier Alliance, stated that the terminal in Morocco has been operating nearly at full capacity this year, testing efficiency and productivity.

Despite short-term pressures, APM Terminals mentioned improvements in their facilities at Barcelona, Algeciras, and Tangeri.
However, ship location services indicate regular anchorage waits at both Algeciras and Tangeri, signaling increasing congestion.

Navigation lines have been compelled by limited capacity at Algeciras and Tangeri to redirect to less convenient and distant ports like Malta and Gioia Tauro in Italy.

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