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Acute shortage of containers in Asia could run beyond February: Sea-Intelligence

Cargo ship at Miami harbor

Acute shortage of containers in Asia could run beyond February: Sea-Intelligence

Cargo ship at Miami harbor

Container shipping consultancy Sea-Intelligence has warned that the dire shortage of empty containers in key locations, especially in Asia, could persist into at least February, and possibly beyond.

In its latest Sunday Spotlight, the consultancy analysed the situation by modelling the overall state of the market based on high-level regional data.

Alan Murphy, CEO of Sea-Intelligence, said the largest problem in container shipping right now – the dire shortage of empty containers in key locations, especially in Asia – is “driving spot rate markets to historical highs, and it is what is causing significant grief to shippers looking to get their product moved in a timely fashion.”

He noted that the question with the highest priority for everyone in the industry is: when will the equipment shortage be resolved?

To get the answer, Mr Murphy said they carried out an analysis based on 4 different strategies available to the carriers, to potentially resolve the empty container shortage: (1) do nothing about the container shortages; (2) aggressively reposition empty containers on the export legs into Asia; (3) injection of newbuild containers to ease the burden; and (4) carriers aggressively reposition containers and have an injection of container newbuilds.

“The only scenario in which there is a prospect of resolving the problem in January is the one where carriers both procure new containers, as well as reposition aggressively,” Mr Murphy said, adding “this is exactly the strategy that carriers are currently pursuing. However, this strategy causes significant problems for back-haul shippers.

“The market is thus faced with a stark choice – either the carriers pursue the current strategy, and there is the possibility of resolving the container shortage during January, or the carriers reduce their aggressive repositioning strategy in order to serve back-haul shippers, but then the consequence is that the empty container shortage problem will persist into at least February, and possibly beyond.”

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