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Sreelakshmi H K
January 5, 2024

Red Sea Attack Challenges: Port Congestion Updates

Learn more about the emerging port congestion situation due to vessels rerouting via the Cape of Good Hope instead of the Suez. Access a dynamic list of container vessels impacted by the attacks.
Red Sea Attack Port Congestion Updates

In the wake of escalating tensions arising from the Red Sea attacks, a notable surge in vessel rerouting via the Cape of Good Hope rather than the Suez Canal has been observed. The rerouted vessel's route would follow the African coastline toward the Cape of Good Hope and beyond. With a minor deviation, ships have the potential to access more than 25 container ports in Africa. In some instances, a more extended diversion could expand the number of accessible ports to over 50. As anticipated, this shift has triggered port congestion in specific locations while increasing port activities in others.

An example from our platform is the visit of the MAEU (MAERSK TANJONG: 9332511) to a Namibian port, likely for bunkering. Though such scenarios may not immediately increase congestion, they may still increase port activities.

As we stay vigilant in tracking congestion statuses and potential bottlenecks that shippers may encounter, let's delve into the initial insights garnered from our platform.

Increase in Port Activities Across African Ports Amid Red Sea Attacks

We have analysed all African ports, contrasting the visit counts from the past week with the average weekly figures over the last three months. We specifically looked for ports that exhibited an uptick in visits and congestion compared to their performance throughout the year. Ultimately, we identified the three ports. The graphs presented indicate congestion levels have not been observed at such heights since November 2022. This recent surge in port activity appears to align with the diversions occurring in the Red Sea.

Here are insights into three key ports that have witnessed substantial changes:

1. Mtwara Port, Tanzania (TZMYW):

  • In December, the vessel count at Mtwara port surged from an average of 1-2 vessels per week to 6-7 vessels per week.
  • The median congestion, measured in hours, exhibited a remarkable escalation from the three-month average of 3 hours to well over 10 days in December. 

2. Mombasa Port, Kenya (KEMBA):

  • Over the past three months, Mombasa port has maintained an average vessel count of approximately 15 vessels per week.
  • However, the most recent week saw a substantial uptick, with as many as 23 vessels visiting the port. This influx contributed to a considerable rise in median congestion, elevating from the three-month average of 28 hours to around 100 hours.

3. Pointe Noire Port, Congo (CGPNR):

  • Pointe Noire Port observed an increase in vessel count, rising from the three-month average of 15 to 20 vessels in the last week.
  • The median waiting time, measured in hours, surged from the three-month average of 50 hours to approximately 90 hours.

Access our Port Congestion Dashboard for live monitoring.

Image: A screenshot of Port Congestion Dashboard for live monitoring

Challenges for Vessels Opting Alternative African Ports

An interesting trend has emerged where vessels opt to visit alternative African ports for refuelling, bunkering, or replenishments. While this may not necessarily contribute to increased congestion immediately, it undeniably amplifies port activities.  

Shipping companies navigating the Cape are confronted with challenging decisions regarding refuelling and restocking, primarily due to the inadequate facilities at most African ports, including Durban and Cape Town. Similarly, other significant deep-water ports along the Cape route, such as Mombasa in Kenya and Dar es Salaam in Tanzania, lack the necessary resources to efficiently manage the anticipated surge in traffic over the coming weeks.

Due to concerns about tax evasion, offshore bunkering operations in Algoa Bay, near Port Elizabeth, have come to a halt, leading to a significant redirection of demand toward alternative ports. Durban, along with several other ports in South Africa, has been grappling with prolonged congestion. Durban, Cape Town, Coega, and Port Elizabeth are ranked from the highest to the least congested ports. Consequently, vessels actively seek alternative ports to respond to the ongoing congestion issues.

Image showing congested ports: Durban, Cape Town, Coega, and Port Elizabeth are ranked from the highest to the least congested ports.

Under the circumstances, Mtwara, Mombasa, and Pointe Noire emerge as the ports which show an increase in congestion, potentially influenced by their respective capacities. Factors such as maximum berth length and depth play a role; for instance, Mtwara's newly constructed berth, designed at 300m in length and 13.5m in depth, can accommodate ships up to 65,000 tonnes.

Bunker fuel demand at the ports of Nacala and Maputo experienced an upswing; however, our current data does not indicate a distinct rise in congestion or the number of vessel visits at these locations.

Keep following our communication for timely and reliable updates on the situation. If you need help tracking your containers amid this ongoing Red Sea crisis, don't hesitate to contact us. 

Follow our Red Sea Crisis Bulletin to get all the latest updates.


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