Port Wait Times Reach Over 4 Days

Photo by william william for Unsplash

Port wait times around the world are reaching considerable highs. At least for the first half of 2024, it seems that supply chains are entering an era of disruptions that, in turn, have resulted in average wait times of over 4.2 days regardless of the port—more on this briefly.

At least in theory, you’d expect high wait times in times of uncertainty; that is, when shocks to existing supply chains force shipping companies to adapt and dock at new ports. Such is certainly the case for 2024. In the past months, we’ve covered a number of these disruptions including attacks from Houthi rebels at the Red Sea, to historic droughts in the Panama Canal, not to mention the prevalence of modern piracy. Simply put, 

To better gauge the impact of such disruptions, we mapped the number of days it takes for vessels to dock at 480 ports around the world. The data comes from GoComet’s publicly available estimates for such times, and helps us better understand the impact of global trends.

Below, we placed a point in every port possible and assigned a scale of colors based on the number of days assigned to wait times going from dark green (1 day) to light green (2.5 days) to orange (6-10 days) and red (10 days or more). You’ll notice that some points can be found inland, referring to ports dealing with river traffic. Regardless of such points, we can initially perceive a number of congestion clusters in the Caribbean, and Mediterranean Seas as well as South East Asia.

Global Wait Times at Ports

A map of the world displaying points for 480 different ports; the color of each point indicates the level of congestion in terms of wait times.
(Data from GoComet)

To better understand the trends in port congestion, we also looked at the data on aggregate to find the actual distribution of wait times. In so doing, we found that the bulk of ports around the world have very minor congestions of around 1-2 days worth of wait. Meanwhile, the data does exhibit a long tail of ports with delays of up to 48 days in wait times. This, in turn, pushes the global average wait time to enter cargo ports to 4.2 days.

We also found that the largest ports in the world are actually amongst the most efficient. As it turns out, the top 25 ports have an average wait time of 2.5 days, while the other 455 ports in our dataset still hold an average congestion of 4.2 days. That is, most of the congestion is currently happening in minor ports likely overrun by growing traffic.

Ports by Number of Days Waiting Before Docking

A bar graph showing the distribution of wait times at ports measured by days spent before docking.

(Data from GoComet)

Since global maps are, on their own, might be harder to interpret regional trends, we also looked at the average wait times in various geographies. In so doing, we found a clear pattern placing North America and the Caribbean as the regions with the longest wait times at port of 5.6 and 5.2 days respectively, followed closely by Africa (4.9 days). In the case of North America, we found that the bulk of high wait times was concentrated in Mexico. While the US and Canada had an average wait time of 4.9 and 4.4 days respectively, Mexico’s was a shockingly high 8.8 days. 

Ports Wait Times by Region

A bar graph showing the average wait times at ports around the world measured in days.
(Data from GoComet)

Once can brush off the wait times in North America and Africa by claiming that ports in Mexico and various African countries are inefficient when compared to more developed countries—a finding congruent with our most recent report on North American ports. Europe, however, still has a surprisingly high wait time of 4.6 days. Looking more closely at the region, we found that most congestion came either from river ports of low use or northern ports. Mediterranean ports still operate efficiently, although many are now exhibiting wait times of 2-5 days most likely as a result of increased trade to the Strait of Gibraltar from vessels crossing the Cape of Good Hope in hopes of avoiding the Suez Canal.

Ports Wait Times in Europe

A map of Europe displaying points for 480 different ports; the color of each point indicates the level of congestion in terms of wait times.
(Data from GoComet)

Finally, we looked more closely at South East Asia where, in recent weeks, the Port of Singapore has experienced high wait times of up to seven days for vessels to dock. However, we found that most ports along the Strait of Malacca exhibit wait times below 5 days, with most congestion stemming from other Indonesian and Filipino Ports.

Ports Wait Times in South East Asia

A map South East Asia displaying points for 480 different ports; the color of each point indicates the level of congestion in terms of wait times.
(Data from GoComet)

In general, we found that congestions around the world are at a high of 4.2 days. However, many are consolidated in smaller ports of lesser efficiency, while the largest ports in the world consistently exhibit lower wait times. Nevertheless, we did find that, at least upon first glance, strategic ports in the Mediterranean Sea are experiencing growing wait times as Houthi rebels continue to disrupt access to Europe through the Suez Canal.