Container equipment shortages may be lessening in Asia



Even if ‘one swallow does not a summer make’ we fervently hope that one container index’s ‘positive trend’ really does signify a turning point in container shortages.

The container selling and leasing platform Container xChange, track and compare the global availability of containers on their Container Availability Index (CAx), with score above 0.5 indicating a surplus and below 0.5 indicating a deficit of containers.

The CAx has highlighted a “positive trend” that could make Chinese New Year the turning point, with values for 20-foot dry cargo containers and 40-foot dry cargo containers  improving to 0.34 and 0.37, respectively, indicating much higher availability of empty containers than last month.

Although the latest figures for January are still well below 0.5 and represent a shortage of available containers, those figures for 20DCs and 40DCs are beginning to resemble the ‘normal’ level of container shortfalls experienced for major Chinese export markets. 

Index levels for 40-foot high-cube containers (40HCs) are also significantly higher this month, although at below 0.2 their availability remains low.

For Shanghai, a city traditionally known for a deficit of containers, the index reached record lows in December 2020 of 0.13 for 40DCs and to an even lower 0.08 for 40HCs. A minus of 75% and 83% compared to equipment levels in the first quarter of 2020.

With Chinese container factories now working at full production, and the aggressive repositioning of empties back to China by the shipping lines, optimism remains that Chinese New Year could become the turning point for equipment shortage. 

According to CAx Qingdao is reaching index values of 0.5 for standard equipment – which should represent a balanced equipment situation. Though our experience is that shortages still remain a significant issue.

And for some of the other major hubs across Asia like Singapore, Nhava Sheva and Port Klang, the Container Availability Index shows the same trend. Compared to December 2020, container availability is up 58% in Singapore, 35% in Nhava Sheva and 54% in Port Klang across standard container types in January 2021.

Looking at the CAx forecasts, the indications are that the equipment situation will remain stable in the coming weeks until mid-February, when the Container Availability Index will settle at around 0.35 for 20DCs and even 0.38 for 40DCs.

Although this is not the end of the container supply crisis in Asia and availability to load boxes with products, it is a positive piece of news for a situation that has worsened over the last few months and had a huge impact to supply chains. There are many other dynamics and variables to consider and Metro will continue to update you every week on changes in the global logistics markets that may impact your own business.

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