A backlog of ships waiting to offload goods at the key ports around the world is threatening to disrupt the supply chain in East Africa ahead of the Christmas festivities.
East Africa relies on imports from China as its largest source market for the bloc’s imports, followed by India and the United Arab Emirates.
However, with the shipping vessels stuck in the world’s leading ports, it means that the EAC region will still grapple with the shortage of shipping containers at a time when shippers are in dire need of containers for importing merchandise ahead of the December festive season.
EAC member states import a wide range of raw materials and finished consumer goods from China, with electronics such as mobile phones topping shipment orders. Others are clothing, kitchenware, furniture, machinery, optical and medical equipment.
Already shipping lines are warning of fresh disruption fears in the wake of congestion at the ports. Shipping group Maersk said the chaos that has bedeviled global supply chains in recent months will extend into next year, with a lack of truck drivers preventing hundreds of container vessels from offloading goods especially in the United Kingdom and the US.
The pileup in warehouses is itself a reflection of shortages of truck drivers needed to carry goods to their next destinations, creating a backlog at the ports.
“The whole system has become one gigantic bottleneck,” Chief Executive Soren Skou told international media recently.
Skou said the biggest problem preventing containers from leaving ports in the absence of labour, particularly drivers of heavy goods vehicles in the United States and Britain despite salaries having been raised “significantly.”
The situation has forced many traders in the global supply chain to source goods from alternative costlier markets and this has seen consumers bear the brunt of costlier goods.
There are almost 300 container vessels waiting to dock at the ports in the United States, worsening an already existing shortage of shipping containers.
The shortage of finished goods at retailers represents the flip side of the containers stacked on ships marooned at sea and massed on the riverbanks.