The combination of peak season holiday imports with pandemic spikes and surges is snarling the global flow of shipping containers, causing empty containers to linger in storage depots even as demand for their capacity soars, an industry report said today.
Container availability across China is still at a record low, while U.S. ports are overwhelmed by a surge of shipping containers from Asia, full of products that retailers are eager to get on shelves for the holidays, according to the report from Container xChange, a German firm that helps forwarders avoid demurrage and detention charges by accessing third party container equipment.
Part of the reason for the blockage is the large variation in the time that containers sit unused between different countries, Container xChange said. Worldwide, containers spend a global average of 45 days empty in depots, although they are “very much in need,” the report said.
However, that average delay is much higher in regions with low container availability— such as China and the U.S.—reaching 61 and 66 days respectively. That compares to a scant, 21-day average in the Middle East and a 23-day average in Europe
The report gives extra credence to industry concerns about container shortages, which recently led U.S. government regulators to open an investigation into the enforcement of ocean carrier and marine terminal practices. The Federal Maritime Commission (FMC) launched its fact finding mission, citing “potentially unreasonable practices of carriers and marine terminals regarding container return, export containers, and demurrage and detention charges.”