Steamship lines are encountering delays in Shanghai and other Chinese ports due to equipment shortages and capacity constraints. 

As the steamship line industry recovers and surges from the challenges of COVID-19, a slew of new obstacles have arrived. Chinese ports lack adequate access to empty containers, resulting in substantial capacity constraints. Meanwhile, American demand for Chinese imports has soared following the springtime economic slowdown. 

This confluence of conditions has resulted in sailing delays across Chinese ports.

Empty Container Shortage

Empty cargo containers are few and far between in many Chinese ports.

The severe empty container shortage traces back to the early days of the pandemic slowdown. As US demand for Chinese imports plummeted in spring, the industry saw a sharp decline of containers returning to China on backhaul routes. Since then, empty container repositioning to China has not kept up with rising demands for shipments from Chinese ports.

Container constraints mean there often is not enough capacity aboard vessels to carry full loads. Some shipments are running two to three weeks behind schedule because of the empty container crunch, as there are not enough containers available to load the booked cargo for a given vessel. The situation is forcing some Carriers to roll booked freight from intended vessels and wait to find space on the next available sailing. 

Premium Charges for Equipment Guarantees and Priority Loading

Aiming for a stop-gap remedy, steamship lines have offered high premium charges that guarantee equipment and no-roll shipping to customers. Some steamship lines are also imposing Equipment Imbalance Surcharges to help recoup container shortage and recovery costs. 

Vessel Delays

Delays are not just occurring from the container capacity imbalance — vessels themselves are departing behind schedule as well. Clogged ports on both sides of the Pacifica have caused delayed departures across many steamship lines. Other circumstances like a September typhoon and continuous Chinese Military exercises have caused further delays. Some steamship lines are behind as much as 14 days with vessel departures. 

Planning Carefully

Careful planning around shipping from China is as important as ever, with many booking shipments two to three weeks in advance to ensure timely arrival.

Scarbrough International is monitoring this situation as it develops. We are here to help clients navigate delays and find paths to on-time, intact delivery. Reach out to your current Scarbrough International representative or contact us here to plan for securing space and no-roll shipment from China.