As the US Faces a Shortage in Shipping Containers, we are Forced to Wonder if China is to Blame.
This container shortage has been a prevalent issue for months at US ports. Federal Maritime Commissioner Carl Bentzel stated that he believes, “China may be manipulating the market to control the availability of containers.”
“I am concerned that this equipment is controlled by a state-owned enterprise and that we’re completely reliant, and I have questions about whether or not there’s been market manipulation of what is potentially a monopoly,” Bentzel said on Wednesday.
Shipping Demands Continue to Grow
This container shortage comes at a bad time as shipping demands continue to grow. With China in full control, there are fears that this issue will not be solved quickly. Equipment leasing companies – which purchase containers from the Chinese manufacturers and then lease them out to shipping lines – are prepared for a very profitable market well into 2022. With fewer boxes available, shippers are going to be forced to pay higher rates to move their cargo.
On top of higher rates, it is projected that shipping times from Asia are going to remain slower than usual.
“We’re understanding from the ocean shipping lines that they’re waiting two weeks in China to get cargo containers, and we’re seeing delays of up to two weeks on intermodal movements going through railroad terminals as [U.S. railroads] are also grappling with challenges providing the equipment that is necessary to move,” Bentzel said.
Previously only estimated to take 33 days, transit from Bejing to Chicago has now increased to roughly 65 days. This delay will cause disruptions in shipping times across the world.
Legal Allegations Against Shipping Lines Arise
Along with the operational challenges being faced, legal issues have been raised. Major container line shipping policies are being investigated due to recent allegations of favoring the Chinese market.
These allegations state that certain carriers are refusing to serve U.S. exporters, as it is more profitable for them to immediately send empty containers back to China to be filled with U.S. imports, rather than allowing them to be used for U.S. exporters.
“I anticipate that we’re moving closer towards enforcement proceedings or policy suggestions to help better serve the shipping public,” Bentzel said.
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