- Prices for containers are going through the roof (and they were already so high)
- International container traffic is still disrupted. Containers are extremely expensive.
- The fact that a major Chinese port has reopened does little to change that.
- The cost of shipping a container from Shanghai to Rotterdam has risen to a new record.
The Meishan terminal in eastern China is open again. The container terminal, the third-largest in the world, was closed on 11 August when one (yes: one) employee was found to have the delta variant of the coronavirus. The closure further disrupted international container traffic. The container terminal, part of the large port of Ningbo-Zhoushan, is very important for that transport.
Through the terminal, products manufactured in China such as furniture, toys, household goods and car parts find their way to Europe and the US. When the terminal was closed, arriving container ships diverted to other ports, such as those of Shanghai and Hong Kong. There, congestion ensued. Earlier this year, a major port in southern China has temporarily closed due to a dozen coronas. Other ports also became congested then.
Explosive increase in transport costs
Many sectors have been suffering from the explosive increase in transport costs for months. There is a great scarcity of containers and container ships on major sea routes now that the economic recovery from the corona pandemic is moving faster than expected. There are also congested ports and Chinese terminals were temporarily closed due to localised corona outbreaks.
International container traffic has been disrupted for a year and a half. After the first outbreak of the virus, China immediately closed its ports. Ports in other countries followed suit. When trade picked up again after the summer, many containers were lying where they were not needed. In addition, large shipping companies had taken some of their ships out of service. The fact that the Suez Canal was blocked for a few days in March this year by a jammed container ship did not help the flow of goods either.
This imbalance has still not disappeared. Many container ships have been delayed and the prices for hiring containers have gone through the roof. In March, Dutch shippers complained about the high prices: it cost an average of USD 4900 to get a large container of goods from Shanghai to Rotterdam, more than three times as much as before the corona crisis.
Shipping companies are the lucky ones
In the meantime, the shippers would like to see those March tariffs back. In July, the price for a large container (40 feet) was over USD 11,000 and last week, according to maritime research agency Drewry, Carriers currently charge an average of USD 13,787 (EUR 11,721) per container between the Chinese and Dutch ports: 6.5 to 7.5 times as much as a year ago.
The big shipping companies such as Maersk and Hapag-Lloyd are the big winners, and in the past twelve months, they have made profits they could only daydream about in previous years.