A softening of demand combined with record production of new containers last year has forestalled a container shortage. Despite the significant number of containers held up in North America and Europe, ocean carriers, importers and forwarders said that shippers are not facing difficulties obtaining container equipment in China and other points of origin in Asia.

According to maritime consultancy Drewry, the global pool of ocean shipping containers grew 13% last year to almost 50 million TEU. As many as 6 million TEU of surplus containers exist in the global equipment pool. Container orders surged following shortages that emerged in post-lockdown spending. Triton, the largest container lessor said new container production exceeded 5 million TEU last year, more than double the number produced in 2019 or 2020.

The availability of containers at origin comes as conditions in North America are worsening. The crimp in normal circulatory flow of equipment in North America is so severe that one ocean carrier said it was unable to dispatch a ship from Los Angeles-Long Beach back to Asia because of a shortage of empty containers with which to fully load the ship for seaworthiness. Another carrier confirmed issues with in-gating empty containers onto marine terminals.

Potential containers shortages could emerge in Asia if the backups continue in North America. One ocean carrier executive said a container shortage at origin “could be the next issue to emerge,” due to inconsistencies among carriers in returning empty equipment to Asia and contracting for new equipment.



Source: Journal of Commerce