The cost of shipping goods from China to Europe has more than quadrupled in the past eight weeks, hitting record highs as a shortage of empty containers stemming from the pandemic disrupts global trade.
The cost of shipping a 40-foot container from Asia to northern Europe has increased from about $2,000 in November to more than $9,000, according to shippers and importers.
Lars Jensen at consultancy SeaIntelligence said: “It’s a bottleneck problem . . . These rates are being driven by customers fighting over a limited resource — containers.”
Thousands of empty containers were left stranded in Europe and the US in the first half of 2020 when shipping lines cancelled hundreds of trips as coronavirus lockdowns caused a sudden slowdown in global trade. When western demand for Asian-made goods rebounded in the second half of the year, competition among shippers for available containers sent freight rates soaring.
John Butler, president of the World Shipping Council, said: “We’ve gone from a tremendous drop-off to getting whipsawed into historically high cargo volumes and there’s now more than terminals can efficiently handle.”
Congestion at ports is contributing to higher prices, with shipping lines charging extra fees to compensate for longer waiting times, he added.
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