2021 Global Shipping Container Market Update by Almar Container Group

To kick 2021 off, we thought we would share a few updates on the current global shipping container market, as things continue to change very quickly.

Factors at Play

  • Freight rates continue to soar, with the Global Container Index moving up by over 30% in the past three weeks. (Source: fbx.freightos.com)
  • Update (04/03/2021): Freight rates continue to rise, with the Global Container Index moving up by over 10% in the past 5 weeks. (Source: fbx.freightos.com)

  • With Chinese New Year in early February and the subsequent manufacturing shutdown, there are generally a large number of “blank sailings” as shipping lines reduce capacity ahead of the shutdown, however this year there has been very limited reduction in sailings
  • Update (04/03/2021): Chinese New Year has come and gone, with almost zero impact on the shipping volumes. Blank sailings reported in previous years at around 20%, were only reflecting at 3% for this year.

  • With COVID related lockdowns happening globally to varying extents, the result is a significantly disrupted inland logistics chain, resulting in more containers needed for the same amount of cargo.
  • Update (04/03/2021): Disrupted inland logistics chain is still creating an inefficient use of containers, resulting in more containers needed for the same amount of cargo.

The Global Shipping Container Market Price

  • Shipping container factories continue to constrain supply into the market by operating reduced production shifts. This has resulted in an order backlog going into June 2021 for some factories and pricing drastically rising over 50% over the last 5 months.
  • Update (04/03/2021): There is currently no view on when container factories will open up more than one shift, meaning that production lead times will remain long with sustained higher pricing.

  • The used container market has continued to rise too, specifically in China, with all global markets now following suit. Pricing in some ports in China has moved above $4,500 for a USED 40ft HC.
  • Update (04/03/2021): Pricing in some ports in China has moved above $5,800 for a USED 40ft HC.

What is causing this?

There are many theories, but it seems the main driver is the shift by the global consumer from service-based spend (travel, tourism, restaurants etc.) to consumer goods, resulting in a spike in demand for shipping services.

How long will it last?

It is very difficult to say, but with the continued 2nd and 3rd waves occurring globally, we see the situation maintaining until well into Q2 of 2021.

Update (04/03/2021): It is very difficult to say, but we do see this extending well into Q2 now and potentially even Q3 of 2021.

Immediate impact for us?

Prices will increase in South Africa during the early part of 2021 and it is likely that this will continue during the first quarter. It is difficult to predict the price in the longer term, but we believe that prices will remain significantly higher for most of 2021 compared to the prices of 2020.

Update (04/03/2021): The direct impact has been slower and less dramatic for us in South Africa. We do however see this changing and the challenge is set to become less around price (although that will continue to rise), and more around actual availability of containers.

We hope this provides a helpful insight into the global container market. Please feel free to contact Almar on 031 561 67 67 should you require further information.