American and European ports suffer record low container equipment availability

American and European ports suffer record low container equipment availability

Available containers at many major ports around the world outside of China stand at record lows, according to new data published today.

The massive box imbalance brought about by the trade war and then the coronavirus sees Chinese ports rammed full of boxes waiting to move, while carriers are urgently deploying extra tonnage to other hubs where equipment shortages are now at their lowest levels ever.

Container xChange, launched in 2018, runs its own Container Availability Index (CAx), which forecasts supply and demand in container logistics for most of the biggest port locations for the coming three weeks. The index works whereby above 0.5 indicates a surplus and below 0.5 indicates a deficit of containers.

Container availability at the ports of Long Beach and Los Angeles in the US, and at Hamburg, Rotterdam and Antwerp are now at their lowest levels recorded.

Worst hit is Los Angeles, a location that is well known for its normal surplus of equipment. Instead of having a bigger surplus – last year’s CAx values for 40DCs ranged from 0.52 to 0.99 – the port is at an all-time low with a CAx value of 0.08 for 40DCs this month.

Conversely the port of Shanghai currently has a huge surplus of boxes sitting on its quayside, roughly three times as many as there were this time last year.

Despite carriers sending more ships to move boxes to their required destinations in recent days, the equipment shortage is expected to worsen.

“Now as the virus gets worse in Europe and the US, equipment turnaround speed puts even more stress on shipping lines. As most countries in Europe have shut down operations, container inspections, handling or stuffing – every part of the transport chain that requires human interaction – are heavily delayed,” Container xChange stated in a release today.

To help fix the situation in Califorina, MSC is redeploying the 23,756 teu MSC Mia, which currently holds the joint record as the world’s largest container vessel, as well as the 23,656 teu MSC Nela from the Asia-Europe trades onto the transpacific in services it operates with Maersk as part of the pair’s 2M vessel sharing agreement.

The sailings of the MSC Mia and MSC Nela will increase the number of so called megamaxes temporarily deployed on transpacific loops to four, as the 19,224 teu MSC Oscar already called at Los Angeles last week, while the 19,368 teu MSC Anna will be redeployed later this month.

Sam Chambers

Starting out with the Informa Group in 2000 in Hong Kong, Sam Chambers became editor of Maritime Asia magazine as well as East Asia Editor for the world’s oldest newspaper, Lloyd’s List. In 2005 he pursued a freelance career and wrote for a variety of titles including taking on the role of Asia Editor at Seatrade magazine and China correspondent for Supply Chain Asia. His work has also appeared in The Economist, The New York Times, The Sunday Times and The International Herald Tribune.

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