North American exporters having difficult time scheduling ocean transportation to Far East

For at least now in the COVID Era, North American exporters are having a difficult time scheduling ocean transportation to the Far East. Industry sources indicate that shipping lines are thriving with huge Asian cargo volumes bound for the U.S. West Coast.

Melanie Stambaugh, of the Northwest Seaport Alliance, which represents the ports of Seattle and Tacoma, said her group’s imports are up 25% this year. In April exports from Seattle and Tacoma were down 11%. Because of willingness to pay high rates, goods imported to Washington State from the Far East, shipping lines are profiting nicely. As a result, for exporters, vessel schedules have been unreliable.

Rebecca Lyons, the international marketing director of the Washington Apple Committee said that “yes, we are hearing” from her grower-members “of challenges in getting space on board container ships. A container may be stuffed and waiting at the port, and then get rolled onto a different vessel with delayed arrival."

To help that situation, Stambaugh indicated that Seattle and Tacoma “are trying to incentivize exports.” The ports are finding unused dock warehouses that can hold perishable products until a shipping opportunity arises. If exporters have a place to hold their products it alleviates the extra transportation cost of running back and forth between their own warehouse and the port.

Stambaugh indicated: “We are the second-largest refrigerated gateway in the U.S.” largely because of handling a wide variety of U.S. agricultural products. While Washington apples are iconic, the seaports also handle exports of meat, pears, potatoes, dried legumes, pork, fish, poultry, eggs, plants and flowers, and even fresh cherries.

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