July 24, 2017

Challenges Facing Ports: Causes & Solutions

Image of a sennebogen machine operating at a port


Clearance Delays, Increased Freight Rates, Capacity Issues & More

Ports play a critical role in the development of many countries. They represent a country’s national heritage, culture, and local commercial attitudes. Simply put, ports are the gateways for trade. Unfortunately, despite the rapid globalization and modernization, most ports are not as efficient as they should be and are becoming barriers to international trade.

If you are a keen follower of emerging trends, you will note that most ports are plagued with problems like clearance delays, inadequate investments, captivity issues, increased freight rates, lack of effective strategies, and inappropriate international mandates.

What is causing all these challenges? Here are factors affecting ports what can be done about them.

RELATED: What Does it Take to Run America's Largest Inland Port? 



Accounting for Shifting Tide Level

An unanticipated shift in tide levels can leave ships and vessels stranded for days and may also lead to costly accidents.

How can this problem be solved?

Well, for starters, port authorities should invest in technologies that allow them to predict and accurately measure water levels, current speed and direction, air temperature, and water salinity to ensure delays and accidents caused by these glitches are reduced.

Modernizing Outdated Port Footprints

If you have visited any port lately, you can agree that most ports do not have an up-to-date look.

Most ports cannot cope with the demands of modern trade, and this has been the main cause that most problems stem from.

To solve this problem, governments should invest in deeper harbors, more jetties, wider entrances, and more hinterland areas. A modernized port will redefine the concept of ‘economic gateway.'

A well-equipped port will make it possible to handle big ships and more cargo more quickly and efficiently. Ports are growth engines, and the expansions will lead to the progression of other businesses and offshore industries.


Mega-Ship Port Congestion 

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Port congestion has been a dilemma for decades, and the problem is getting worse with the introduction of mega-ships. Over the past ten years, most vessels have doubled in capacity and are getting bigger and bigger over time. Ironically, most ports remain same, and there are hardly any plans to renovate or expand them.

The increasing number of big vessels has significantly increased

  • Cargo arriving at the same time
  • Larger ships take more time to offload, resulting in more berth time


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As a result, ships that arrive on time are forced to wait for berth space, and this has significantly affected the vessel schedule integrity.

Congestion has also been caused by lack of coordination among terminal operators. The procedures they use are shambolic and outdated.

How can we reduce congestion in our ports?

  • More should be allocated to our ports to ease expansion and efficacy.
  • The terminal operators should also be more organized and come up with a modernized procedure to ensure containers are loaded and offloaded speedily and efficiently.

Ship Alliances & Mixed Loads

The idea behind ship alliances was upright as it enabled easy and cheap transportation. However, these alliances have contributed to most port problems, and they should be revised or replaced with better alternatives.


Ship alliances have resulted in ships carrying a mixed cargo from different shipping lines.

A mixed load creates an operational problem when the vessel is being loaded or offloaded.

The terminal operators have to place the containers in a planned and sequential manner, and this leads to time wastage resulting to more congestion.

To deal with this problem, ship alliances should reduce the number of mixed containers so as to reduce the berthing time each ship takes. These unions can also use their vast networks and resources to push for relevant authorities' interventions to expand port capacity.

Lack of Chassis

There was a time when carriers used to provide chassis for container shipments in most ports. However, the number the chassis decreased, and most carriers sold off their chassis. This resulted in a chassis crisis, which has been difficult to solve. The chassis crisis hindered the smooth movement of containers from one country to another and also led to congestion.

  • Carriers should be encouraged to provide chassis for their shipments.
  • Relevant port authorities should come up with smart procedures that will enable easy provision of chassis services.

Trucker Shortage

This is another problem that has been facing the shipping industry for years. There are not enough truckers to handle the cargo in most ports, and this has contributed to the congestion you see in our ports.

To solve this challenge, law makers should come up with policies and regulations that will encourage the formation of more trucking companies. Tax reduction can make it easy for trucking companies to find, hire, and retain drivers. Governments should also invest more in roads to solve this problem.

An active shipment sector is an essential ingredient for any economy. Ports should be modernized for efficient logistical operations. If adequate resources are allocated towards updating outdated port layouts, ports will experience a smoothly operating shipment sector, which can boost the economy, reduce costs, and decrease lag time. 

RELATED: Fun Facts About Ports: Did You Know? 



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