Container availability at southern Chinese ports continues to deteriorate as carriers skip calls due to a wave of Covid outbreaks in Guangzhou province.
According to the latest data from Container xChange, the ports of Yantian, Shekou and Nansha are the hardest hit by the container shortage.
“Far fewer empty boxes are arriving in southern China as container lines skip calls, and many shippers will face long delays or higher equipment prices if they cannot avoid using the affected ports,” said Container xChange founder Dr. Johannes Schlingmeiner.
In a notice to customers, Maersk said today that, including partner vessels, it has skipped 64 planned calls at Yantian and Shekou due to “delays of more than 16 days” at the congested ports.
In addition to the cancellation of export cargo loading, the port omissions mean that urgently needed empty equipment on board the diverted vessels will not be discharged to replenish dwindling stocks in the depots.
Container xChange noted that Yantian had recorded a 19% drop in empty container imports in the past five weeks, Nansha experienced a 16% drop and Shekou a more dramatic 30% drop.
According to the online container rental and trading platform’s CAx index, 40-foot availability readings in Yantian, Shekou and Nansha fell to 0.47, below the index’s 0.50 level, suggesting that more containers are leaving the port than coming in.
Dr. Schlingmeiner added: “Our forecasts suggest that container availability at these ports will not increase in the coming weeks as more container lines cancel their calls.”
He suggested that shippers unable to get equipment from carriers may have to resort to using shipper-owned containers (SOCs) for urgent shipments. However, the price of empty equipment has skyrocketed in recent months and there is no guarantee that carriers will even accept SOC bookings.
Moreover, even if a shipper manages to get its own container aboard a vessel, tracking the box can be challenging. One UK-based NVOCC with an office in China recently told The Loadstar that it had “lost” its SOCs for several weeks after shipment.
“We tried the SOC option, but I don’t think we’ll be doing that again any time soon,” he said.
“We eventually got our boxes on a ship and thought that was a result, but then the line told us they had been transshipped en route and would be moved to another ship. But the person who answered the phone could not tell us which ship, nor when the containers would arrive in Felixstowe.
“Several weeks later, after receiving no update from the carrier despite daily emails, we were suddenly told that the containers had left Rotterdam and were waiting for a feeder vessel to take them to Felixstowe.
“As you can imagine, our customer was pulling his hair out,” said the NVOCC, “he could not accept that the containers disappeared without anyone having any idea where they were.
“At one point we thought the boxes might have been at Ever Given, but fortunately that was not the case.”