Container Availability: From Shortage to Congestion? - Global Trade Magazine
  April 1st, 2020 | Written by

Container Availability: From Shortage to Congestion?

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  • The effects of COVID-19 have dramatically affected consumer demand in the US and Europe.
  • The incoming containers are most likely causing congestion, and incurring storage and demurrage charges...
  • The next couple of weeks will tell us if the COVID-19 situation eases in the western world.

Container ports all over the world, with the exception of China, are faced with imminent congestion when a multitude of boxes sent for shipment from factories in Asia arrive at their import destinations. As the infection rate of the COVID-19 in China declined and production resumed, a large number of containers that had piled up in China have finally sailed to Europe and North America. 

With Container Availability Index (CAx) values of 0.17 (20DCs) and 0.33 (40DCs), it seems like the Port of Shanghai is back at full productivity. In the past couple weeks, containers had piled up – CAx values of greater than 0.6 indicate a surplus of equipment – due to multitudinous blank sailings, something that would normally not happen often. Being able to forecast the development of the next 3 weeks, the CAx values for Shanghai will decrease from 0.41 for 20DCS in week 14, indicating that equipment will become more scarce again.

However, the effects of COVID-19 have dramatically affected consumer demand in the US and Europe. Buyers have begun to cancel orders as most of these countries are now in a severe lockdown situation and warehouse capacity is being maxed out. The incoming containers are most likely causing congestion, and incurring storage and demurrage charges at, for instance, the Port of Los Angeles or the Port of Hamburg.

With CAx values of 0.38 (20DCs) and 0.57 (40HCs) for Hamburg and values of 0.82 (40DCs) and 0.3 (40HCs) for Los Angeles, the Container Availability Index also forecasts increasing equipment volumes in these ports. The forecast takes millions of containers tracked through Container xChange into account, helping shipping companies make container sale, lease or repositioning decisions. 

The next couple of weeks will tell us if the COVID-19 situation eases in the western world. To remain competitive, especially European freight forwarders and shippers are expected to increase their usage of SOC containers in order to avoid demurrage charges.