For European exporters looking to source shipping containers, existing shortages could deteriorate significantly in the coming weeks, according to the latest data from Container xChange, the world’s leading online platform for the leasing and trading of shipping containers.
Most pricing and availability indicators now suggest carriers are continuing to favour shipping empties back to Asia as fast as possible to maximise yields on front-haul services rather than wait for less lucrative backhaul loads.
The upshot for shippers is rapidly rising prices in Europe for containers even though CAx availability readings point to higher availability of boxes in European hubs – Container xChange figures do not track empty moves.
“The confluence of theoretical high availability and soaring prices for boxes strongly indicates that container lines are prioritizing empty containers over export cargo from Europe,” said Dr Johannes Schlingmeier.
“There were signs of this even before the Suez Canal closure in late March. The latest figures suggest the additional disruption this caused has exacerbated the situation and made it even harder for exporters to find empties.”
The latest container trading data reveals that between January and April average prices for used 20 ft. containers across Europe rose 57% from $1348 to $2119.
In April, price increases for 20 ft. containers were especially severe. In Antwerp prices jumped by 30% compared to March. In Hamburg they rose by 16% over the same period while in Rotterdam they increased 12%.
Since the beginning of May, average prices for 20 ft. dry containers in Europe softened slightly to $2249 from $2110 in April. However, prices for 40 ft. dry containers have again increased this month, up 13% to $3112 from $2750 in April.
In Container xChange’s Container Availability Index (CAx) an index reading of below 0.5 means more containers leave a port compared to the number which enter. Above 0.5 means more containers are entering the port.
At the port of Genoa, the average CAx reading for a 20 ft. box in 2021 is 0.71, up from 0.26 through the first half of 2020. At Hamburg, in 2021 the average CAx reading has so far this year is 0.75, compared to 0.39 in 1H 2020, while at Rotterdam the reading is 0.71 so far this year, versus 0.46 a year earlier.
After a short dip in incoming containers to Europe due to the Suez Canal closure as measured by Container xChange’s Container Availability Index (CAx), inbound volumes are expected to increase again.
CAx readings for week 19 decreased by on average 4.5% to values of 0.85 across dry-container sizes in Hamburg, 0.79 in Rotterdam, and 83.5 in Antwerp, indicating an ongoing surplus of incoming boxes.
“According to Container xChange forecasts, an increase in incoming shipping containers by 4-5% over the next weeks is likely to not only increase CAx readings but also contribute to slowly decreasing container prices again,” said Dr Schlingmeier.
“These are good times for equipment owners across Europe as indications are that even if container prices dip slightly, scarcity will remain until carriers change tack and start looking for more backloads. As a result, container prices are likely to remain at elevated levels for some time, although we do think availability for exporters will improve in the coming months.”