As stacks of global inventory continue to be stuck in congested seaports, shippers searching for scarce containers are driving up prices for the steel boxes, a new report shows.
The international shortage of shipping containers shows no sign of stopping, months after it was triggered by supply chain wrinkles like the U.S. trade war with China, demand pulses during the pandemic, and the Suez Canal traffic jam caused by Evergreen Line Corp.’s “Ever Given” containership.
As is true for most commodities, that shortage has caused prices to rise, according to Container xChange, the Hamburg, Germany-based platform for the leasing and trading of shipping containers.
In China, average prices for used twenty-foot containers increased 94% between November 2020 and March 2021, jumping from $1,299 per box in November last year to $2,521 in March, the firm said. Prices have also jumped in India, where average prices for used twenty-foot containers rose 58% between June 2020 and March 2021, increasing from $1,106 to $1,755.
“The relentless pace of container shipping trade since the summer of 2020 is not easing and this is reflected in equipment shortages in Asia, and elsewhere. We expect markets will tighten even further in the coming weeks as the ripple effect of the Suez Canal closure at the end of March further disrupts container shipping services and equipment availability,” Container xChange CEO & Founder Johannes Schlingmeier said in a release.
The situation has even pushed the cost of procuring a used ocean container beyond what was previously considered a “normal” price for a newbuild container, the firm said. “It always depends on the exact equipment type, but before shortages became critical, a standard used container which was a few years old would cost around $1,000 in China, while a brand-new container would be about double the price,” Schlingmeier said.