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After months of shortages, container availability improving in China

Christian Fernsby |
After months of crippling shortages, container availability is finally improving again in China, according to Container xChange’s Container Availability Index (CAx).

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Topics: CHINA   

The CAx reading of incoming containers across Chinese main ports is currently up 56% compared to before the Chinese New Year (CNY) holidays which started on February 11.

At Shanghai, the biggest Chinese box port, the CAx has increased 64% for 20 ft. dry containers when comparing pre- and post-CNY container availability. For 40 ft. dry containers, the increase is even more stark, with box availability improving 112% over the same period.

Dr Johannes Schlingmeier, CEO & Founder of the container leasing and trading platform Container xChange, commented:

“Trade traditionally slows down in China for an extended period during and after the Chinese New Year holidays as factory workers travel to visit families and output drops. Most data suggest Covid travel restrictions and high demand for exports meant that many factories continued operations. But it seems the drop off in output, even if less than normal, was enough to allow the container supply/demand imbalance to reduce.”

In the Container xChange 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.

“One week of index values greater than 0.5 does not mean so much but exceeding the 0.5 marks for several weeks in a row like Shanghai and other main ports in China have done means that finally more containers are entering ports regularly, giving them the chance allow the container supply/demand imbalance to reduce,” said Schlingmeier.

For exporters who continue to struggle with finding the right equipment, other Chinese ports such as Qingdao, Dalian, and Ningbo are great alternatives to Shanghai.

Dalian, with the highest equipment availability of the three ports, shows the highest post-CNY index values with 0.79 for 20ft dry containers and 0.80 for 40 ft dry containers – up 17% and 27%, respectively, since the pre-CNY period.

At Qingdao, 20 ft. dry and 40 ft. post-CNY container availability readings on the CAx are 0.64 and 0.65, up from 0.42 and 0.39 during the pre-CNY period.

Container prices confirm the positive trend. After record highs for used container boxes in January of $5593 for cargo-worthy containers, prices fell to $3750 in February.

“These prices are still far higher than buyers usually pay for newly built containers, but this is still good news for companies who export from China,” said Schlingmeier.

“With so many supply chain disruptions still evident, we expect container availability in China and elsewhere to remain volatile. But thus far in 2021 there are positive signs that availability at key export hubs is improving.”


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