Saudi Ports Authority President Abdulaziz Al-Tuwaijry said yesterday that Saudi ports, especially Jeddah Islamic Port, are facing an unprecedented situation with a big rise in the volume of imported shipments. He was reacting to media reports about considerable delay in handling containers at the Jeddah port.
Al-Tuwaijry said the huge number of containers arriving at the port is far beyond its handling capacity. “There has been a 31 percent increase in the tonnage of imported goods handled at the port. The number of containers and vehicles arriving at the port during the current season jumped 22 percent and 35 percent respectively compared to the same period last year,” he said.
Moreover, the ships that have been berthing at the port in recent months are new generation ships carrying more tonnage, each with a capacity to carry 14,000 containers. There has been also been an increase of eight percent in the number of ships arriving at the port. “There are 62 docks at the port, including three container terminals with a total capacity of over seven million, in addition to separate terminals for handling vehicles, steel, grains, and a terminal for the arrival and departure of Haj and Umrah pilgrims," Al-Tuwaijry said.
The ports chief said that normally a freighter docks at the port for about 17 hours. But sometimes, they take more time in case of bad weather or their arrival ahead of schedule at the port. he added. This puts added strain on the port's capacity to handle goods.
The cargo crisis at Jeddah Islamic Port worsened after two international freight shipping carriers refused to transport containers to Jeddah from America. The crisis also resulted in a steep increase in container shipment charges from the port to various parts of the Kingdom — as much as 90 percent in some cases.
A huge rise in the flow of containers and a slowdown in handling procedures are the reasons for the current crisis, according to a report in Al-Eqtisadiah business daily.
Muhammad Al-Manie, chairman of the Jeddah Chamber of Commerce and Industry’s road transport committee, said two US shipping companies refused to abide by the agreement to transport containers to Jeddah from the United States.
He said: “Some other international freight carriers have also plans to halt operations to Jeddah due to long delays in loading and unloading containers at the port.”
According to Al-Manie, the crisis also affected cargo movements by road. He added: “There has been an increase of 90 percent in the charges for shipment of containers from the port. The excessive delay in handling containers has resulted in long lines of trucks stuck at the port premises.”
Al-Manie noted that if the crisis continues, it would affect other related sectors and consumers would ultimately suffer because imported goods would cost more. He feared the continuing delay in handling containers may also result in a major segment of these imported goods moving to other seaports in the region.
According to Saeed Al-Bassami, deputy head of the Council of Saudi Chambers of Commerce and Industry’s national transport committee, the short period of time to complete unloading procedures and restrictions at some gates at the Jeddah port are the major reasons for the delays. He said Riyadh is also facing a freight crisis. “Restrictions on the entry of trucks to the capital city resulted in a major crisis with tens of thousands of trucks stuck outside the city for hours. The crisis in Jeddah and Riyadh has resulted in transportation charges skyrocketing by 150 percent,” Al-Bassami added.