Freight shipping has found itself in a unique situation where unforeseen events have left a global shortage of containers, which has had a domino effect down the supply chain, disrupting global trade.
Early last year, when the Covid-19 pandemic began to spread, many countries began implementing national lockdowns and ceasing the production of goods, which ultimately pulled the plug on economic growth.
Shipping companies began reducing the number of cargo ships that were being sent out. This not only stopped the usual flow of imported and exported goods, but also saw empty containers not being collected.
So where have the containers vanished to? A significant number of containers have found themselves in inland depots while others have been stacking up at cargo ports.
As Asia slowly began to recover, other countries were still faced with national lockdown restrictions meaning containers could not be sent back to Asia (where they were really needed) to continue the trade partnership. The pairing of lockdown regulations alongside other factors, such as a staff deficit, meant a backlog of containers began to develop.
Many industry shipping giants, such as Maersk and Hapag-Lloyd, have been hit hard by the global container shortage, which has resulted in them adapting their methods and facing shipping setbacks.
Hapag-Lloyd 已将容器重新填充和清空时间比平时快 25%，以确保最佳容器使用。赫伯罗特在调整其容器以用于其他用途时跳出了框框思考。
Hapag-Lloyd has increased container refilling and emptying times to 25% faster than usual to ensure optimal container use. Hapag-Lloyd has thought outside the box when it comes to adapting their containers for alternative uses.
Turning the reefer containers off allows dry goods such as shoes, electronics, or textiles to be sent to reefer demand locations. Once there, they can be emptied and switched back on to continue their journey.
“We are desperately looking for more capacity,” he says. “We are asking our customers to return empty containers earlier. We looked at containers that are currently in repair or ones which are meant to be sold because they have reached a certain age.
With no one in the industry having a crystal ball to predict the future for this issue, methods have been put in place to assist companies globally, such as the creation of a new booking system.
阿里巴巴集团旗下菜鸟推出了自己的集装箱订舱服务，可用于空运和海运，以应对全球集装箱短缺的情况。这项服务将跨越 50 个国家的 200 多个港口，旨在减少空集装箱的积压。
Alibaba Group’s Cainiao has launched its own container booking service, which can be used for air and sea freight in response to the global shortage of containers. This service will span more than 200 ports in 50 countries and aims to reduce the backlog of empty containers.
Maersk, the largest container shipping line and vessel operator in the world, has been significantly affected by the container shortage but believes that the current situation will soon improve.
“Moving forward, transparency in rule-making globally is key for all market players to support global trade.”
The global shortage and impacts of Covid-19 have left the industry in uncertain waters. However, container availability is gradually increasing while congestion is reducing in certain bottlenecks. As the year progresses, the industry hopes to see improvement on the horizon.