Ikea goes from flat-packed boxes to steel containers in bid to ease shipping crunch

The king of the flat-packed box has bought its own containers and become the latest major retailer to reveal it is chartering in boxships amid today’s uniquely tight, pricey ocean shipping space.

Ikea, the world’s largest furniture retailer, has joined the likes of Walmart and Home Depot in taking some of its ocean supply chain needs into its own hands, revealing to American and Swedish news outlets this week that the decision to buy boxes and charter ships came in the wake of the growing port congestion around the world and the lengthy fallout the company suffered from the Ever Given Suez Canal blockage earlier in the year.

These giant shippers will have a good look at terminal handling charges and other hidden charges

“Congestion in ports combined with historically high demand has created an imbalance in the entire world market for maritime transport,” Ikea’s product deliveries director Mikael Redin told Swedish daily Svenska Dagbladet. “On top of that must be added a general shortage of certain raw materials. All in all, this has unfortunately led to restrictions in our range today.”

Other retailers to have gone down a similar route during the trickiest period in the 65-year of containerisation include Dollar Tree, an American discount chain, and clothing retailer, American Eagle.

“These giant shippers will have a good look at terminal handling charges and other hidden charges. It could be a game changer in their relationship with carriers, terminals and forwarders,” commented Russ Green from RTG Communications, a long-term watcher of global supply chains.

With available containers and space on boxships increasingly scarce and sensationally expensive, a number of dry bulk shipowners have in recent weeks entered the fray, moving boxes on deck.

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.


  1. It is time for the next generation
    Container vessels, with zero’s emission, for transantlantic transport…
    Conceptual Design is ready.

  2. I fail to understand how chartering ships and buying containers eases port congestion.

    Am I missing something?

    1. You are not the only one not really getting it…

      Maybe they will buy their own terminals as well and make the in to a do it yourself like the stores. “run your own container crane” sound like a brilliant idea.

    2. Having been a major shipper of many years who have been happy to rape the lines (disclaimer – this is a generic comment about the ‘big container shippers) they probably don’t like the market rates that are now giving them one back. So maybe this is a factor? In my years back in the day in the Liner trade it was frustrating how we were screwed on rates, whilst wondering what a minute cost it might add to a pair of trainers in a 40ft. It is long overdue that big container ships earnt the big money the risky investment deserves. If we all have to pay a few more pennies for our goods than so be it. Seafarers STILL are not being globally recognised for their dedication and so maybe a bit of going without will do the trick. It will, however, be interesting to see how much of this new profit filters down to these frontliners, who unfortunately are unlikely to be shareholders!

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