Singapore container ship delays extend to Malaysia

The congestion of container ships in Singapore is causing significant supply chain disruptions, spreading to Malaysia and leading to delays in consumer goods transportation. This issue stems from ships rerouting to avoid the Suez Canal due to attacks by Houthi rebels. Analysts predict that congestion at these shipping terminals could persist through August. Delays and rerouted shipments have led to a surge in container vessel rates.

The congestion of container ships in Singapore, one of Asia’s busiest ports, is spreading to Malaysia, causing significant disruptions in supply chains and delays in the transportation of consumer goods.

The bottleneck is primarily due to ships avoiding the Suez Canal and Red Sea following attacks by Houthi rebels supporting Hamas in the conflict with Israel. Many vessels destined for Asia now opt to sail around the southern tip of Africa, bypassing refueling and cargo unloading opportunities in the Middle East.

Off the western coast of Malaysia near Kuala Lumpur, around 20 container vessels are clustered near Port Klang. Both Port Klang and Singapore are strategically located on the Straits of Malacca, a crucial waterway linking Europe and the Middle East with East Asia.

Port Klang, being near Kuala Lumpur, plays a vital role as a terminal, though queues of this magnitude are rare. Ship-tracking images show numerous vessels unloading at its berths. While both Singapore and Tanjong Pelepas in Malaysia seem full, fewer ships are waiting at these terminals.

Analysts predict that congestion at these shipping terminals could persist through August. Delays and rerouted shipments have led to a surge in container vessel rates.

Global container freight index_TPCI

Source: Freightos Baltic Index (FBX)

Due to this, the risk of higher prices on a wide range of goods, from cars to smartphones, has escalated dramatically for global consumers. Shipping rates have skyrocketed over the past year, and the impact is likely to trickle down to consumers soon.

The Freightos Baltic Index (FBX) utilizes real transactions to ensure accuracy to estimate global container freight rates. According to FBX, the global container freight rates have shot up from $2519 in January to $4988 as last measured on 4th July indicating a 98% rise in the current year.

Additionally, a surge in shipping volumes, particularly to and from China, has coincided with an earlier-than-expected peak shipping season. This unexpected influx threatens to prolong disruptions in the global supply chain, even after the Red Sea shipping crisis subsides.

Compounding these challenges are recent tariff announcements by US President Joe Biden, targeting a wide array of Chinese imports from chips to electric cars. This has prompted frantic efforts among companies to stockpile inventory before the tariffs take effect later this year, particularly impacting automakers unable to shift to airfreight like other electronics manufacturers.

Moreover, beyond Singapore, there are concerns brewing at major US ports where labor talks have been suspended, raising the specter of a potential strike from October onwards. Such a scenario could create a perfect storm for global supply chains already strained by the lingering effects of past shipping backlogs.

Reflecting on past experiences during the pandemic, similar congestion in Asia led to widespread price hikes across various products. As Singapore struggles with prolonged shipping delays, the risk of another inflationary shock looms larger on the global stage.

Leave a comment

Subscribe To Newsletter

Stay ahead in the dynamic world of trade and commerce with India Business & Trade's weekly newsletter.