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Container shipping outlook 2024: Rising risk of delays, disruptions

The supply chain crisis is long over, but America’s importers still have a lot to keep them up at night as they plan for 2024.  

Two key container shipping “chokepoints” — the Panama Canal and the Bab-el-Mandeb Strait in the Red Sea — are simultaneously under threat. Container-line financials are under severe pressure, forcing ever more vessel sailings to be canceled. The dockworkers union serving East and Gulf Coast ports is threatening to strike next October. While freight rates are low, concerns over delays in import shipments are high.  

For an overview of the disruption risks in the year ahead, and advice on how U.S. importers can mitigate those threats, FreightWaves spoke in-depth with Nerijus Poskus, global head of ocean procurement for freight forwarder and supply chain logistics platform Flexport.

This question-and-answer interview was edited for clarity and length.

Panama Canal fallout

FREIGHTWAVES: The Panama Canal crisis is getting worse. We’ve just seen two of the three global alliances abruptly shift their Asia-East Coast services from the Panama Canal to the Suez Canal. How does this impact U.S. importers in terms of transit time and cost?

POSKUS: It increases the pro-forma transit times by an average of roughly seven days, depending on the loading port. I emphasize “pro forma,” because if you look at actual transit times with expected delays through Panama, are there actually any delays going through the Suez instead?

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