Sunday, June 20, 2010

Maersk Move Empty Shipping Containers In Light Of Box Shortfall

'Situation is Unique' as Vessels Redeployed to Counter Shortage
Shipping News Feature

WORLDWIDE – The problem inherent in the shipping industry of trade imbalances has been highlighted this week by the world’s largest container carrier, Maersk Line. Trade deficits has always caused problems for ship owners and a disparity in rates has always existed in the import versus export equation, be it on the Silk Road of 1,000 BC, the Roman – Indian Spice Routes or the current Asian – North American – European TEU exchange.

Bad enough for small freighter, or indeed a road truck, which has to run empty from country to country or town to town but this week Maersk chose to highlight a modern peculiarity, that off the disappearing containers. Following the downturn numerous container shipping and container leasing companies stopped sourcing and producing equipment and indeed, as we have highlighted previously, many changed the direction of production to mitigate the loss of trade. Now Maersk point out that, in common with other industries which tightened budgets during the crisis, many companies have failed to replenish stocks of both standard 20’ and 40’ ISO boxes and specialist containers.

In response to the equipment shortage, Maersk Line say it has has initiated production of new containers and leasing of containers. They are re-activating their fleet of laid-up container ships to assist in repositioning containers as fast as possible from e.g. the east coast of North America and Latin America to Asia, creating a useful incidental trade in the meantime for otherwise unemployed equipment.

Lars Reno Jakobsen, Head of Network and Product and member of Maersk Line's Management Board said this week that they expect the equipment shortage to last through the third quarter of this year continuing:

"The present market situation is unique. We are experiencing a demand surge in most trades, which is a development that is both unprecedented and unexpected by us and our customers. For example, the Asia - Europe trade is growing by 23% (1) compared to the market's single digit expectation just six months ago. Therefore, we already see a very tight equipment situation.

“We have been working hard the last couple of months to minimise the inconvenience for our customers and we are adamant that we shall continue to live up to the customer commitments we make through the peak season when we expect an even more pronounced and serious shortage of containers.”