Logistics trends: A report to review the container shipping situation in major international ports

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The staggering profits for sea freight forwarders have surpassed the combined industry profits made over the whole decade and the shipping trends in 2021 have shown us that the shippers are ready to pay a higher price for their cargo

As we approach 2022, the time is now to look back at the international container shipping trends in the last year. Here is a special report about the Container Index Availability (CAx) at all the major global ports, compiled by our partner Container xChange– the leading marketplace for container trading and leasing. According to Johannes Schlingmeier, the Container xChange Co-founder, “Over the last two quarters, the industry has faced skyrocketing container prices. However, these increases first leveled off and have now started gradually decreasing. It seems, what we’re seeing now, is a turning point.”

container availability index
40 HC average container prices

A guide to container prices around the world

All the important ports in China, the US, the UK, and Germany are showing a decline in container prices between August to November. In the last 3 months, the price of containers in the US has gone down by almost 15%. The Port of Qingdao has registered the sharpest fall in container prices from September to November 2021. Here the average price of 40 HC containers has been reduced by 23% coming down to around $1756. In the Ningbo Port, a 40 HC container cost $959 less in November compared to the price in September.

Container xChange- container availability index
Average One-way Leasing Pickup Charges

What is Container Availability Index?

Container Availability Index or CAx is an index (or tool) that permits interested parties to oversee the container availability in certain ports through the import and export moves of full containers. A CAx value of 0.5 indicates that the number of containers that left and entered the port in one week is the same. CAx value greater than 0.5 indicates more containers have entered the port. On the other hand, CAx values lesser than 0.5 mean that more containers have left the port. The data from millions of containers are tracked to come up with the CAx value. Container xChange has collected this data from shipping lines, terminals and depots.

The high CAx value in major ports due to inbound containers

This report by Container xChange took into account 83 important ports around the world. Nevertheless, only 9 of these 83 ports, have CAx values lower than 0.50. In 74 out of these 83 ports, the CAx values were higher than 0.50. Last year, 61 ports had CAx values lower than 0.50 while before the pandemic only 34 ports had CAx values lower than 0.50. This clearly shows how the pandemic has disrupted the regular port operations. Usually, the year-end is the time when there’s a surge of containers in the UK and USA while the Asian ports record a lesser container volume. However, this year, only a few ports in China have a low CAx value while the rest of the ports have higher CAx values. This indicates that containers around the globe are either delayed or stranded.

Trading and leasing rates

container availability index container shipping industry

A look at the regional trends in container shipping

Container availability in the US

Last year the CAx values at the Port of Los Angeles went down from 0.85 to 0.34 in the first to last week of November. In 2021 this value has dropped from 0.88 to 0.87 at the same time of the year.

The CAx values at the Port of Savannah were high all through this year ranging between 0.90 and 0.96. This suggests tremendous port congestion and container load of inbound shipments.

At the Port of Long Beach the CAx values ranged between 0.86 to 0.89  in the last week of July and in November, this value is at 0.86. Even though we noted a drop in these values last year, the predictions are not showing signs of revival this year due to the current situation of the gridlock.

The CAx values at the Port of Houston, Texas, in 2020  was half of this year. In November, the CAx at Houston Port was 0.89 while in 2020 it was 0.48. Undoubtedly, the port witnessed an increased burden of inbound containers all through 2021 as compared to 2020 and 2019.

Container shipping trends in China

A fall in container prices

The average one-way pickup rates of containers from China to Germany and the UK have gone down between September to November. This rate will fall further in the future. The average leasing rate from China to the US has dropped by 25% between August to September. Nevertheless, this rate has gone up in October and November.

We can see a drop in the prices of 40 HC containers across 14 ports in China. Furthermore, a similar trend can be seen for 20 DC containers. The average cost of containers reached an all-time high in September. After that, the price fell steadily till the end of November. In Shanghai, the price of 40 ft HCs fell by 21% from $6,686 in September to $5,746 in the first week of December. In the Port of Yantian, this fall in price was around 12%, around 7% in Shenzhen, 12% in Tianjin, 7% in Dalian, and 23% in Qingdao.

The ratio of inbound containers in China is highest since 2019

Last year in November the CAx values in Shanghai Port hit an all-time low of 0.05. This year, the CAx values went down to 0.50. This indicates that the number of containers coming and leaving the docks is the same. Yantian Port has an average CAx value of 0.27. This shows that the number of outbound boxes is more than the previous year but still has not reached the pre-pandemic level.

CAx values at the Ports of Dalian and Tianjin

In November, the container availability index in Tianjin was higher than that of Qingdao and Ningbo Ports. By the end of November, the CAx values stood at 0.71 while in 2020 it was 0.16. In 2019 this value was 0.39. Therefore, we can see the presence of more inbound containers at both these ports. In the Port of Dalian, the average CAx values were 0.49 last month. This value is 4 times greater than the value in November 2020.

CAx values in Tianjin and Shanghai are higher than in Qingdao and Ningbo

We can see an increase in the CAx value at the Port of Ningbo which is slowly going back to the pre-pandemic levels. Last year this port witnessed a substantial decrease in CAx values. This year the drop in the CAx value is considerably less. We can safely conclude that in November 2020 the volume of inbound containers was lesser than that of outbound containers. This year, however, the number of outbound containers was not greater than the inbound ones.

Container shipping trends in India

In Chennai, the price of 40ft HCs went down from $5550 in August to $5323 on the 1st of December. In Nhava Sheva Port, the price for 40ft HCs fell from $5044 in October to $4875 in December’s first week. The cost for the same in 2019 was around $1000 for 20 DC and $2000 for 40 DC. The Port of Chennai also went through a 17% jump in average prices of 20 DC containers. The average container cost in the Nhava Sheva Port went up from $2292 in October to $2320 in November.

The CAx is probably not going to rise in 2022

CAx values at the Nhava Sheva Port were around 0.78 in the end of October. In the last two years, this value was lower demonstrating a downward trend till the year ending. This implies a larger number of outbound containers at the Nhava Sheva during close of the year. Nevertheless, the trend isn’t similar in 2021. The numbers indicate a fall in the number of exports. Additionally, containers have also piled up at the ports while the number of inbound containers is getting higher.

The container availability index at Mundra Port was five times greater compared to the previous year. In addition, it is around 3 times higher than the pre-pandemic level. This trend has been consistent all around the year. At the Port of Chennai, the CAx values in November are twice that of the previous year. The pre-pandemic trend in the Chennai Port was low CAx values because of the large number of exports. The year 2021 has indicated a contrary trend of high CAx values till the end of the year.

The situation at the Ports in Europe

High CAx Values at the European Ports with heavy inbound containers

In November, we have seen a 5 times growth of CAx values at the Port of Antwerp as compared to 2020. This shows that a large number of containers are docked. The CAx values at the Port of Valencia are six times greater than in 2020. In the Port of Barcelona, the CAx value is also double that of the previous year. The CAx at the Port of Sines was 0.09 last year, while this year it is 0.85. This is a great increase. The CAx values at the Port of Hamburg are three times greater than last year. The average CAx values at the Port of Felixstowe were 0.65 in the last 3 years. However, this year in November this value stands at 0.89.

All the European Ports have higher CAx values than the last two years. Furthermore, we can also notice a consistent increase in the number of inbound containers at the European ports.