Top Tips to Managing Shipments in Tight Capacity 4/1/15

With seasonal demand picking up, many shippers across the US are experiencing a capacity crunch. As such, some will need to make adjustments to how they plan and execute their loads to ensure their customers get their products on time.

Some of Odyssey’s top tips for managing shipments in times of tight capacity are:

  • Plan in advance. With tight capacity, lead times for loads can be long. Forecast and book anticipated shipping needs to ensure capacity.
  • Find partners. A 3PL may have relationships and access to a broader network of carriers than the shipper, increasing the likelihood of finding additional capacity.
  • Become a shipper of choice.
    • Reduce unproductive time for the carrier:
      • Be ready for the carrier when he or she shows up.
      • Consider flexible pick up times.
    •  Reward carrier loyalty by offering loads to current carriers first.
    •  Pay bills on time.
    •  Provide driver-friendly facilities.
  • Explore new modes. Over-the-road loads may be good candidates for intermodal alternatives.

Container Volume Moved East through February

Through February, as shippers sought alternatives to using congested West Coast ports, ports in other areas of the US saw significant increases in container volumes.

The below chart from Zepol shows a sample of the major ports seeing significant increases:

US Port TEUs
(Jan-Feb 2015)
(Jan-Feb 2014)
% Change
New York/Newark 466,799 432,789 8%
Savannah, GA 239,611 199,134 20%
Norfolk, VA 148,626 143,161 4%
Houston, TX 138,253 107,296 29%
Charleston, NC 122,299 107,601 14%
Miami, FL 63,109 54,575 16%
Philadelphia, PA 36,349 26,488 37%
New Orleans, LA 18,553 12,251 51%
Wilmington, NC 16,744 15,943 5%
Boston, MA 16,185 15,531 4%


However, with the dramatic increases in container volume combined with inclement weather conditions, some ports are experiencing capacity issues of their own. For example, sources have reported import delays at the Port of Houston of “a week to two weeks” due to the increased volume and extreme fog.

Similar to the Port of Houston, congestion and delays were reported at the New York/New Jersey Port as the Northeast ports also had increased container volume and severe winter weather to contend with. As the West Coast congestion continues to clear because of the impending labor resolution, and the weather begins to change, it is Odyssey’s view that the delays in this area should subside.

Odyssey will continue to monitor the situation and keep you advised of any actions recommended for your business. In the meantime, if you have any questions or concerns, please feel free to call.