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An Ongoing Shipping Container Shortage

Shipping containers have always been a significant shipping unit for global trade. Without them, carriers would be unable to move large volumes of cargo. Since the 1950s they belonged to the backbone of supply chains and represented faster and cheaper solutions for moving goods between overseas markets. 

With the global outbreak of the Covid pandemic in 2019, the container situation changed, and we are still seeing an ongoing container shortage worldwide. The global lockdown brought significant restrictions on movements – factories were shut down, the consumer demand for goods changed, and this consumer demand could not be met. There was also an issue with the lack of staff operating in the seaports as they had to go to isolation. This resulted in delays in loading and offloading the vessels and them being stuck in the ports. In late 2020 government wanted to jumpstart the economy by opening factories, providing vaccines, etc. Shipping traffic was on the rise and the container time shipping route changed from 60 days to over 100 days due to capacity restrictions in Europe and the United States. Due to this, companies stopped to pick up containers at storage places and terminals. There were also problems with lack of free capacity, the extension of delivery times, and lack of drivers or trucks which bring the goods to ports. Container imbalance is caused by flowing cargo from China to Europe and North America, although empty containers do not move back to China.

The shipping costs are higher and have almost doubled over the past years. The price for moving a 40 ft container from China on a vessel is at the same level as moving this container by road. However, according to TT News, from July 2022, shipping rates have declined by 53% in the last three months. The cost for a 40 ft container from China has fallen from $15,764 (April) to $7,400 in July. Two-month lockdown in China and the Russia-Ukraine war also created port congestion in Europe. Containers that were connected to Russia are stuck at European ports, which cause backlogs and longer waiting time for container vessels. For example, at Bremerhaven port vessel waiting time increased from 18 to 33 hours.

How long will the container shortage last, and what is the solution? 

According to experts increasing new container production could improve the situation already in 2022. However, current container production is not high enough to satisfy the shipping industry in the next few years. Businesses should start adapting to this current situation, such as budgeting for rising container costs and using alternatives such as smaller standard shipping units like bicon, tricon or quadcon. They can be cost-effective mainly when they are filled with a single order from one customer. Customers should also use digital technology for valuable data and analytics, which could help predict consumer demand and transparency regarding their inventory. Customers should also plan the orders 90 to 120 days in advance to avoid long waiting times. The shortage will most likely continue. The logistics market will have to prepare for another ongoing disruption because the amount of shipping containers is still insufficient.

 Contributor: Magdalena Tylsova

About Allyn International

Allyn International is dedicated to providing high quality, customer centric services and solutions for the global marketplace. Allyn's core products include transportation management, logistics sourcing, freight forwarding, supply chain consulting, tax management and global trade compliance. Allyn clients range from small local businesses to Fortune 500 firms. Allyn conducts business in more than 20 languages and has extensive experience in both developed and emerging markets. Highly trained experts are positioned throughout North America, Europe and Asia and Allyn regional headquarters are strategically located in Fort Myers FL USA, Shanghai P.R. CHINA and Prague, CZECH REPUBLIC. For more information, log on to


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