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Delays of up to 120 hours have led European barge operator Contargo to impose a congestion surcharge on all operations at the ports of Antwerp and Rotterdam.

The €19.50 per container charge came into effect on Friday and will be levied until 31 August, amid a worsening situation for loading and unloading throughput times at North Europe’s major import hubs.

“For weeks now the barges of Contargo’s fleet have had to wait increasingly long for unloading and loading,” said the operator.

“Throughput times of 50 hours, peaking at up to 120 hours, are no longer an exception and, unfortunately, we must now pass on a part of the costs to our customers.”

Contargo said the surcharge applied irrespective of the navigational area of the Rhine for all loads and terminals.

“If the situation has not substantially improved, we shall also have to extend the surcharge beyond 31 August 2017,” it added.

“Since handling procedures in the seaport are not within the scope of our responsibility, unfortunately we cannot accept any responsibility for disruptions in this area. Nor can we accept responsibility for delays and the costs resulting from them.”

Responding to the announcement, Hapag-Lloyd said it would apply a €25 charge per container, noting that feeder services to Rotterdam would also be affected.

“Since the terminals are congested and only operating with slowed productivity, we have to implement the congestion surcharge with immediate effect,” the carrier told customers. “We will keep you informed about the duration of this surcharge and the development of the situation in Rotterdam and Antwerp.”

Week-long delays were first reported at Rotterdam’s RWG Terminal in mid-May, with Contargo warning then it could not guarantee deadlines. One Rotterdam-based source suggested much of the delay was down to new shipping alliances and the use of bigger ships by carriers.

A spokesperson for Port of Rotterdam told The Loadstar delays were the result of several events hitting the port at the same time.

“We genuinely think the waiting times grow because of several circumstances, of which bigger ships and, more important, growing numbers of teu are an example.

“But a cyber attack on two terminals hasn’t helped either.”

The two APM Terminals facilities in Rotterdam were put out of action for several days following the Petya ransomware attack at the end of June, which also brought Maersk Line’s operations to a halt.

The spokesperson added: “Looking ahead to the summer holiday period, we cannot exclude the possibility of [further] waiting times, despite the efforts being taken by all parties to avoid them.”

The port was in in discussion with a “number of market parties” to develop more alternatives and structural solutions.

“There is sufficient capacity in our port,” the spokesperson continued, “and we have every confidence that the balance will be restored.”

Port of Antwerp said it was “well aware” of the barge delays, with a spokesperson noting this was the result of several factors, including a shortage of dock labour and handling capacity as a result of the rising volumes of shipping.

In a statement, the port said a consultation with all its supply chain partners had been held on 6 July to discuss the situation.

“In the short term these parties will collaborate in defining the challenges that have to be overcome in order to make structural improvements to the handling process,” said the statement.

“Under the leadership Antwerp Port Authority the parties will strive to complete this procedure by the beginning of October 2017 and to define a set of initiatives aimed at making structural improvements to the process in the coming months.”


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