There is a shortage globally of shipping containers, so you’re not mistaken thinking prices are inflating rapidly. Covid-19 is a primary cause of the issues which have increased delays for shipments and deliveries. The problem isn’t shipping container quantities internationally – it’s that many of them are stranded due to lockdowns and trade restrictions that have come with the Covid-19 pandemic. Mega-export countries like China ground to a halt at the initial outbreaks, and this has been the international pattern ever since. Pandemic restrictions mean that containers, filled or empty, couldn’t go anywhere and instead are piled up in ports and inland depots. 

With so many people stuck at home, trade made a roaring comeback by the end of 2020 from the surge in online shopping, but that became another problem. Ports struggled to keep up with the number of ships waiting to dock and unload, and more and more vessels ran behind schedule because of port congestion. As a result, many decided to leave their empty containers behind rather than wait to reload them, causing a pileup at import centres, and supply dwindled at export locations.

Freight shipping is in a unique situation, and that has caused a domino effect down the supply chain and ultimately caused significant global trade disruption. 

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The UK Impact

UK companies have been impacted as shipping and receiving delays currently average six to eight weeks, and port congestion means that some shipments are several months behind. Add this to the already complex post-Brexit situation at customs on many goods and products, leading to a tough and challenging time for UK businesses already under strain from pandemic lockdowns and restrictions. 

As a result, some cargo ship companies have been dropping containers in Northern European ports to avoid further delays but adding more weeks to deliveries and adding more pressure to container availability, leading to an increase in shipping costs.

Looking to the Future

No one can currently predict what will happen next, but companies are working to mitigate the impact. For example, Alibaba Group has launched a container booking service for air and sea freight, including more than 200 ports across 50 countries, and aims to reduce container backlog. 

How long the situation will take to ease is anyone’s guess, but it’s predicted that the shortage will continue into 2022. However, any prediction needs to be taken with a grain of salt as our pandemic world seems to throw up a host of unexpected events that have made the situation worse. These include the Suez Canal blockage where a ship lodged sideways and caused delays or Covid outbreaks that forced the closure of ports, including prominent business hubs.  

Work With Us

Working with an experienced freight forwarder like Barrington Freight gives an element of steadiness in these uncertain times. We do our best to work closely with our network to ensure your shipment arrives as soon as possible. Speak to one of our advisors on how we can help you navigate these uncertain times 01268 978660 or email [email protected].  

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