Congestion still plaguing two leading North European hub ports


Congestion that has affected barge and other intermodal services at key European container ports Rotterdam and Antwerp in the last few months is showing little sign of improvement.

European intermodal operator Contargo said in an update on the delays issued earlier that waiting times for its barges at Antwerp currently range from 12-72 hours, levels unchanged on the preceding update issued on 31 July.

At Rotterdam the company said its barges are now being delayed by 12-144 hours compared to 12-72 hours previously. It asked customers for their “understanding in this continuing situation.”

Replying to emailed questions from Lloyd's Loading List at the end of last month, Contargo’s managing director, Heinrich Kerstgens, said there had been a notable easing in delays for barge traffic at the two ports but underlined that the whole system was very volatile and the company was bracing itself for a return to longer waiting times.

He attributed the congestion to a combination of factors, in particular how “a huge increase” in container volumes had been managed.

Last month, Contargo, which is owned by Germany's Rhenus Logistics, introduced a congestion surcharge of €19.50 per container until 31 August 2017.

No one at Contargo was immediately available for additional comment on the barge congestion or continuation of the surcharge beyond the end of the month.

Separately, Contargo has warned of “massive impacts” for train-borne freight in Switzerland, the Upper Rhine and Italy over the next two weeks due to the closure of the railway line between the German cities of Karlsruhe and Offenburg.

The company explained that the subsidence of the railroad bed caused by construction work on the new Rastatt tunnel was the reason for the closure. An alternative route, with sufficient capacity, is not available.

Contargo said its BME and ROCO rail connections, which link Switzerland and Germany with Rotterdam and Antwerp, are also affected by the closure.

“Thus until further notice we cannot accept bookings for these trains, nor can we guarantee the timely acceptance and delivery of containers. We have to disclaim any liability on the grounds of force majeure.”

The statement added: “At present we are focusing all our efforts on putting together an alternative making use of barges and special trains within the Contargo trimodal.” container network.”