Date: 07.10.2020

India’s container shortage spreads

The anticipated equipment shortages in Asia are spreading as importers in the United States and Europe struggle to return empty containers to Asian manufacturing hubs, with India, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh hit particularly hard.

The container imbalance followed the spike in imports to the US and Europe, after the reopening of their economies and now carriers are having difficulties repositioning empty containers for return to load ports across Asia.

While western economies began reopening early in the Summer many Asian economies, most notably on the Indian subcontinent remained in pandemic-induced lockdown, followed by trade disruption and significant falls in imports, which has contributed to the shortage of containers that is affecting exports to Europe and the US, with some Indian exporters having to wait for 5 to 10 days for containers as compared to 0-1 day pre-Covid.

We are aware of reports from Colombo of a waiting period of three to four weeks for further connectivity of containers, which has resulted in congestion. 

The lockdown induced drop in demand for imports encouraged shipping lines to divert vessels, which had been idled during the Covid lockdown, to more profitable trades,  exacerbating supply and demand gaps on the major intra-Asia trading routes.

And with a lack of containerships calling at Indian ports, many carriers have cut short their container lease positions, which has made the shortage even more acute and led to additional costs and time to reposition boxes.

With high demand on almost every route, delays and freight rates are increasing, with no sign of earl respite.

Shortage of equipment from all shipping lines is expected to continue for the next two to three months.

China to India rates are almost double pre-Covid levels, leading shipper representatives to call on the government to set up a regulator to rein-in what many feel are the “monopolistic” practices of shipping lines.

Metro are doing all we can to mitigate container shortages, by working with partner carriers that support us as a VIP customer. In addition, we are encouraging customers to provide forecasts of containers so that we are able to pre-book equipment release at each origin at least 14 days in advance of collection. 

For further information, please contact Ian Barnes or Grant Liddell who are monitoring the global container markets on a daily basis.