Asian Container Shortage Set to Intensify into May


The difficulties in sourcing container equipment in Asia are intensifying, with unrelenting US import demand and choked logistics chains continuing to slow the turnaround of boxes.

Asian container availability is tightening, and purchase and rental costs are soaring, according to a key metric tracking that data, as container lines warn that equipment will become even scarcer in the eastbound trans-Pacific as demand builds through May. 

That heavy demand for containerized shipping, and the difficulties of handling such large volumes, means the current equipment imbalance can be expected to deteriorate.

Currently, finding an empty container in Shanghai, or any other major Chinese port, is an expensive and difficult business. Equipment remains tied up on ships waiting outside ports and from extended dwell and transit times on the land side.


Import Wave Contributes to Equipment Shortages

For months now, the record-breaking US import volume has overwhelmed terminals. Vessels are being delayed - sometimes for weeks - and carriers are posting record-low schedule reliability levels.

To add to the stress of the supply chain, the cost of used 20-foot containers in China increased 94 percent between November 2020 and March 2021.

Maersk said in a recent customer advisory that equipment shortages remained an industry-wide challenge in Asia, and that the imbalance would be most significant from this week until the beginning of May as empty containers coming back to Asia were delayed and import returns lower.

Source: JOC


Major US Ports Status Update

Port of Seattle and Tacoma – The Northwest Seaport Alliance handled a total of 330,175 twenty-foot equivalent units (TEUs) in March, growing 25% compared to March 2020. Full imports increased 66.5%, while full exports decreased 11.6%. Year-to-date volumes improved 11.8%, with full imports growing 27.5% and full exports declining 12.8%. The Port of Seattle is seeing vessel wait times of 2 days. All terminals are open for normal operations this week.  

Ports of Los Angeles/Long Beach –The Port of Los Angeles processed 957,599 Twenty-Foot Equivalent Units (TEUs) in March, a 113% leap compared to March 2020 when global trade slowed to a crawl at the outset of the COVID-19 pandemic. It was the strongest March in the Port’s 114-year history, its busiest first quarter and by far the largest monthly year-over-year increase. Year to date, overall cargo volume has increased 44% compared to 2020. Delays for port cargo or for cargo to be moved inland by rail have been excessive - railcar turn times average 10 days currently. Currently the Port of Los Angeles is experiencing Yard Utilization at 98%, Vessel Wait Times of 8 days, and trucking and chassis availability is tight. Meanwhile, the Port of Long Beach is seeing Yard Utilization at 68% and Vessel Wait Times of 7 - 9 days. All terminals are open for normal operations this week. 

Port of New York/New Jersey – All terminals are open for normal operations this week. 

GA Ports - Georgia’s Port of Savannah just reported an all-time high: 498,000 twenty-foot equivalent units (TEUs) of container throughput in March, up 48% year on year. Last month’s volume was also a big rise from the preceding month, 27% higher than February. The Georgia Ports Authority (GPA) has now handled 3.9 million TEUs in the first nine months of its fiscal year ending in June. It’s on track to top 5 million TEUs for the first time ever in a single fiscal year. At this time, the Port of Savannah is experiencing delays of 5-6 days. Truck capacity remains tight. All terminals are open for normal operations this week.


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