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Vessel bunching

What is vessel bunching?

Vessel bunching refers to the situation where multiple vessels arrive at a port simultaneously or within a short period, leading to port congestion and delays. This clustering of vessels can overwhelm port facilities, causing extended wait times for berthing, loading, and unloading operations.

What causes vessel bunching?

Several factors can contribute to vessel bunching, including:

  1. Weather Delays: Adverse weather conditions can delay vessel departures or arrivals, causing multiple vessels to arrive at the same time once conditions improve.
  2. Port Congestion: Pre-existing congestion at ports can delay vessel operations, causing subsequent vessels to arrive amidst an ongoing backlog.
  3. Schedule Changes: Changes in shipping schedules due to operational decisions, mechanical issues, or labor strikes can result in vessels arriving simultaneously.
  4. Transshipment Delays: Delays at transshipment ports can lead to multiple vessels arriving at the final destination port at the same time.
  5. Seasonal Peaks: Increased shipping activity during peak seasons, such as holidays or harvest periods, can lead to vessel bunching due to higher traffic volumes.

How common is vessel bunching?

Vessel bunching is relatively common in busy ports and during peak shipping periods. Ports with high traffic volumes or those prone to congestion are more likely to experience vessel bunching. Additionally, global supply chain disruptions, such as those caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, have highlighted the frequency and impact of vessel bunching on international trade.

Effective communication with port authorities and carriers, as well as flexible logistics planning, can help manage the challenges posed by vessel bunching.