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Container Shortage Crisis Drives Up Prices

Updated: Dec 2, 2020

Container availability across China is still at a record low. Quite simply, there are just not enough boxes at depots to meet demand.


Due to the sudden increase in demand after months of blank sailings, container availability is now in very short supply. All carriers report severe shortages of 40ft high-cubes (HCs), as well as 40ft standard boxes. Even 20ft containers are often unavailable.


Container shortage
Where are all the boxes? The "black swan" container shortage is affecting sailings from Asia to Europe

As well as forcing some vessels to sail under-utilised, this “black swan” container shortage is also driving prices sky high on the intra-Asia tradelane. The traditionally low-cost shipping route is now attracting extra charges. As carriers prioritise transpacific profits, these routes are seeing large freight rate increases and carrier surcharges.


Peter Sundara, VP global ocean product at LF Logistics, commented;


“Intra-Asia rates have increased due to the lack of equipment and space caused by blank sailings”

Sundara does not expect rates to fall any time soon either. As long as the space and equipment shortages continue, he predicts rates staying high into early next year.


And where are all these missing boxes? Many of them are here in the UK. The empty containers that are so desperately needed in China are scattered around European depots. With the ports forced to limit the restoration of containers back on to overcrowded terminals, these boxes are going nowhere fast.

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