One of Europe's biggest ports is causing delays for BMW, Tesla, and more.
The German port of Bremerhaven is Europe's fourth largest and a key automotive hub that is used by Tesla, BMW, Stellantis, Volvo, and others, and it's now experiencing a sort of gridlock thanks to a shortage of H&H (high and heavy cargo) drivers, according to a report from CNBC. The trade intelligence firm VesselsValue has told the news agency that there is also a shortage of roll-on/roll-off drivers to move incoming car deliveries too, while military exercises have absorbed a significant portion of terminal space that is usually kept open for operators. This is likely a result of the ongoing war in Ukraine.
All of this has created a scenario that is causing delays for vehicles entering and exiting Europe, including those destined for our shores.
As if the situation is not bad enough, there are also not enough ships capable of carrying cars, which has caused shipping line Wallenius Wilhelmensen to refuse bookings for exports to the US for last month and November, and if waiting hours pick up once again, December could be affected too.
In a statement to CNBC, the senior vice president of business operations for Wallenius, Delphine Echenique, said, "We are monitoring closely the capabilities of each port to operate our vessels timely so we can adjust the volume flow into the terminal to the available capacity."
Compounding these challenges is that the global fleet is roughly 13 vessels short compared to December 2019 because of excess scrapping of vessels in the first year of the COVID-19 pandemic, and newly built replacement vessels are only expected to be delivered in 2024.
More bad news comes in the potential for new strikes at the UK's largest container port, Felixstowe, along with a planned fourth strike at the Port of Liverpool later this month and a possible strike at London Heathrow. These are additional challenges for the global supply chain that has faced continuous troubles over the last three years or so.
"These delays are massive," said Andreas Braun, the regional director for ocean product, EMEA, for Crane Worldwide Logistics. He said that vehicles produced in the US and Mexico, such as the new BMW M2, are delayed by months. "There is a three-month delay for BMW, where cars sit in yards waiting to be fitted with extras, especially with the iDrive touch controller."
More local vehicle production would surely help, but the global supply chain is so deeply interconnected that delays like these cannot easily be avoided. If you're waiting for a new car, just know that it may be out of the manufacturer's hands.