Cargo flows are now booming amid unpredictable demand as COVID-19 continues to impact international supply chains. The knock on effect has been the collapse of a normally robust infrastructure across our industry.
The availability of empty containers in Asia is directly linked to the smooth running of every supply chain, with the continuation of limited availability businesses are now facing constant disruption. There are numerous reasons being provided for the lack of equipment, the main being:
- Not enough new containers were manufactured in Q2 due to the slowdown in demand
- Huge amounts of PPE has been shipped and has over whelmed supply chains globally with back-logs reported in most ports, tying up containers
- Port congestion means that vessels do not have time to load all empties on-board before returning to Asia
Hapag-Lloyd recently admitted in a communication to customers that the short supply of 40' boxes is "an enormous unseen challenge". The carrier had 600,000 teu of 40' containers empty on the ground early July. This figures has come down to 350,000, which is hardly covering two weeks of global export volumes.
With most carriers now facing equipment shortages throughout Asia this means although a booking may have been secured it might not be possible to get empty containers to load. To add further challenges to an already disruptive situation lines are also implementing surcharges on 40'hc containers.
Forecasts currently suggest shortages will continue until after Chinese New Year 2021.