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Container shortages


     Containers

A severe shortage of available empty containers on major trade lanes poses a big challenge for shippers already facing soaring ocean freight rates, tightening vessel capacity and congestion at certain key ports.

With ocean carriers having placed sizable orders in the second half of 2020, there are new containers being delivered all the time, but not always beyond the main ports where many of the worst shortages exist.  Carriers prioritize their equipment for the better-paying trade lanes, and this is expected to continue as long as the supply of empty containers remains tight globally.  Availability also varies by carrier, where one carrier has equipment and another has none.

Another major contributing factor to this issue is that containers and vessels are moving more slowly due to cancellations of vessel sailings, port congestions, port labour problems caused by COVID-19 outbreaks and chassis unavailability.  Port congestion, in particular, ties up a significant part of the ability to reposition the empty containers and bring the two-way flow back into balance.

Industry experts are divided on how long this equipment problem will last into 2021, however, some hold the opinion that until all these issues are resolved, equipment will continue to be in short supply and there may not be an improvement until the second half of the year.  Others have a more positive outlook stating that, with Chinese container factories now working at full production and with an aggressive approach by the carriers to reposition their empties back to origin, Chinese New Year could be the turning point for equipment shortages and the situation stabilizing in the coming weeks.  Let’s hope they are right.

For more information, contact Debbie McGuire, Manager – Freight Solutions.

Quick Tip #53
Always have a back-up plan

Do you have a Plan B when something goes wrong with a shipment?  It happens sooner or later with every company that has regular shipments.

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