Due to the global COVID-19 epidemic, international logistics capacity has declined, container shipping prices have skyrocketed, liquidation of containers has become the norm, and it is “hard to find a container” in the industry. These chain effects have attracted the attention of regulatory authorities.
A spokesman for the Ministry of Commerce recently stated that the mismatch between supply and demand of shipping capacity is the direct cause of rising freight rates. Factors such as poor container turnover indirectly push up shipping costs and reduce logistics efficiency. Zhou Maohua, an analyst at the Financial Markets Department of China Everbright Bank, told reporters that global trade has shrunk in the past two years, and this year’s sudden epidemic and blockade measures have led to a contraction in the production capacity of container companies; however, as economies such as Europe and the United States unblock their economies and restart their economies, demand has rebounded, resulting in container shipping capacity Clearly insufficient.
In addition, the severe global epidemic that has caused other overseas ports to be in a semi-stop state is also an important reason for the prolonged container turnover time.
Port freight business rebounds
In order to further understand the supply, demand and turnover situation of containers, the reporter came to Shenzhen Yantian Port, the international container ocean trunk transportation hub in South China. On weekday afternoons, the Yantian International Container Terminal is busy and orderly, with heavy trucks slowly entering and exiting. The overpass leading directly to the port is full of trucks waiting for containers.
The reporter randomly asked several truck drivers, and they all said that their “work” has become less this year. “In the past, it was fixed to pull a box every two days. After the epidemic, this is not necessarily the case. You have to wait for notification.” Lao Li, a driver with 15 years of service, told reporters. “Go home and sleep when you are not alive. I have a lot of rest time this year.”
It is understood that Yantian Port is one of the container terminals with the largest single throughput in the world, mainly serving routes exported to Europe and the United States. Nearly 90% of Shenzhen’s export trade reaches Europe and the United States through Yantian Port.
With the domestic epidemic under effective control, domestic demand for foreign trade container shipping will be fully released in the second half of the year. Data show that Shenzhen Yantian Port’s monthly throughput exceeded 1.46 million TEUs in September, breaking the global single-terminal monthly throughput record set by itself in August.
However, lack of containers is not a common problem at all domestic ports. According to the reporter’s understanding from Dalian Port, there is no shortage of containers at the port this year. Industry insiders pointed out that this is related to the characteristics of the cargo transported by the port. The shortage of containers in this round is mainly e-commerce, epidemic prevention and other materials that require container loading and unloading, while Dalian Port mainly transports bulk commodities.
It is difficult for downstream merchants to find a container
The reporter visited a number of foreign trade export companies and learned that the shortage of containers began in June this year. Containers need to be reserved in advance. Moreover, container shortages have persisted in recent months, and exporters’ advance booking time has been continuously lengthened, from one week and 10 days to 20 days and one month, and some even require lottery tickets to try their luck.
On November 12, Frank Cheng, foreign trade director of Dongguan Dingzhi Furniture Co., Ltd., told reporters that containers are in very short supply and need to be booked 20 days in advance. The company’s furniture is mainly exported to Europe, the United States, the Middle East, Australia and other regions. Cabinets in all lines are in short supply and need to be booked in advance. At the end of November, when the reporter contacted Frank Cheng again, he said that the required containers had to be booked one month in advance and the demand was huge; not only had the advance booking time been extended, but the price of the containers had also been rising.
“The price before going to the UK was 2,100 US dollars. Now it is more than 5,000 US dollars. If it is more than doubled, foreign trade companies will lose money and customers are not willing to bear it.” Frank Cheng told reporters that container prices began to rise in September this year, with prices varying every few days. The exchange rate has been changing, and costs have soared. The peak export season at the end of the year is expected to be even more scarce.
The imbalance between supply and demand has caused freight prices to skyrocket
Under the contradiction between supply and demand, prices have skyrocketed. The China Export Container Price Index released by the Shanghai Shipping Exchange has soared from below 850 points in May to 1107.28 points on November 13, setting a new high in recent years.
“Everyone is celebrating, the designated freight forwarder will be lotteryd for three weeks, and I am happy to pick up one 40HQ.” On the evening of November 30, an employee of an export company posted this on WeChat Moments. 40HQ, that is, a 40-foot high container with internal dimensions of 12.032 meters long, 2.352 meters wide, and 2.69 meters high, can carry about 26 tons of cargo. This is the most scarce container model currently on the market, and prices have skyrocketed.
During the interview, many foreign traders said that container prices have more than doubled compared to the same period last year. “Basically, the market now reflects the shortage of containers. The price of going to a certain port in November last year was 23,000 yuan, and the quotation in November this year is 46,000 to 52,000 yuan.” Business manager of Dongguan Jiamu Packaging Materials Co., Ltd. Ms. Feng told reporters, “We mainly export plastic packaging, mainly to Europe and the United States. This year’s orders are generally better than last year. Now we usually reserve boxes half a month to a month in advance. There are still some reservations in advance.”
Meng Jun, customer service manager of Dongguan Caobang Supply Chain Management Co., Ltd., told reporters that the booking date depends on the length of the route. Ocean routes such as Europe and the United States generally need to be booked half a month to a month in advance; Ocean routes such as Southeast Asia only need one week in advance. The recent price increase of near-ocean routes has been much higher than that of long-ocean routes.
In response to reports from some exporters that lottery numbers are needed, Meng Jun told the Securities Times:The reporter explained that there is currently no lottery for shipping, but some newly opened railway transportation routes do require lottery, such as going to landlocked countries such as Russia. Since the route is newly opened, the capacity is relatively tight, so a lottery is required.
According to national port cargo and container throughput data released by the Ministry of Transport, the demand for containers continues to grow, and the export container freight index has also risen.
According to the reporter’s understanding, the current price of a 40-foot container sent from Guangzhou to New York has risen to US$5,000, more than three times before the epidemic; the price increase of special containers is even more crazy, with some In just one week, freight forwarders were asked to increase their prices by US$4,000 by shipping companies, and the price of some special containers at the northern port was even increased to US$10,000. Before the epidemic, the price of special containers was only about US$1,000.
Show off your talents to go to sea
Containers are in short supply, but the delivery time cannot be delayed. For this reason, foreign trade companies are racking their brains to “ship”.
An unnamed foreign trader told reporters that under normal circumstances, ocean freight prices are more expensive than near-ocean freight, so shipping companies will give priority to ocean routes. Therefore, when there was a shortage of containers at the beginning, the shortage of boxes going to Europe and the United States was even greater than that to Southeast Asia. “I chose to ship the goods in bulk to Southeast Asia first, and then concentrated the container shipment from Southeast Asia to Europe and the United States. Although the freight was twice as expensive, at least it was There are boxes available.”
Ruihe Technology’s e-commerce manager Zhang Jilin told reporters that the company has noticed the shortage of containers and has formulated contingency plans internally, such as formulating as early as possible Export planning, book boxes in advance. Increase the logistics budget. If urgent goods cannot be ordered in a container, the more expensive air freight will be chosen to ensure on-time delivery.
The reporter found that most of the foreign trade companies suffering from “lack of boxes” are small and medium-sized enterprises, and large foreign trade companies are not very sensitive to the “lack of boxes” phenomenon. </p