Carriers, container owners struggle to return boxes to China

Shipping lines and container owners in North America have been struggling to get empty boxes back to China. The US is also facing major trucking issues that are making cargo movements within the country difficult, according to Maritime Logistics Professional of Palm Beach, Florida.

The monthly container logistic report published by Container xChange noted that there was always congestion in the US at this time of year, because everyone was trying to make sure that retailers had enough inventory on the shelves for the upcoming holiday and Christmas season”.

Christian Roeloffs, co-founder and CEO of Container xChange, said that the US West Coast labour negotiations had seen many freight forwarders reroute cargo to the US East Coast, which had caused congestion on the US East Coast too. “Hinterland complications like acute shortage of truckers and rail delays are adding to the woes. All in all, there are many challenges that will impact a smooth container movement into the peak season,” Roeloffs said, adding that “empty containers piling up at the depots in the US and containers stuck on the sea (owing to the congestion) will contribute to capacity being tied up. On the supply side, there is an excess of containers while due to recessionary fears and inflation, the consumer demand has softened. Nonetheless, we are sliding into the peak season, and this is the busiest season of the year.”

According to the report published, the average container prices for cargo-worthy containers of all types in the region rose from $2,116 in July to $2,214 in August, although this remains way below the peaks seen in the second half of 2020 and heading into 2021.

The ports on the US East Coast and West Coast are experiencing an increase

in average container prices, while these average container prices are declining worldwide. In North America, the US saw a 7.3% increase in per month trading prices for cargo-worthy containers of all types.

Roeloffs said that “this situation of empty containers piling up in the US and in the Europe will lead to tighter depot space. Carriers will rush to get rid of their older equipment, and second-hand container prices will continue to slide. The lockdowns in China will further make the situation difficult for shippers and freight forwarders to move the cargo from China to the US.”