Global Container Availability: Where Are We Now?
The shipping crisis has been making headlines for a few years now, and global container availability has been at the centre of it.
While volumes have started to shrink after last year’s cargo boom and port congestion is easing across Asia and North America, container availability is still tight as global trade continues to recover.
But what's behind this shipping crisis?
Where are all the containers now?
And what does this all mean for the wine industry?
Before we can answer those questions, we need to understand how it all started.
The global container shortage can be traced back to early 2020 when the COVID-19 pandemic first hit.
As businesses worldwide shuttered their doors and global trade came to a standstill, so did the flow of containers. Containers already in use were stuck where they were, while new containers sat idle in factories and ports.
This sudden decrease in global container availability led to a domino effect still being felt today.
Cargo ships were suddenly unable to load as much cargo as they normally could, which led to higher shipping costs and longer wait times.
This, in turn, led to shortages of goods and higher prices for consumers. The pandemic also had a devastating effect on the wine industry.
According to The International Organisation of Vine and Wine (OIV), the top exporters of wine in 2021 were:
The top importers in 2021 were:
United States ($5.9B)
United Kingdom ($4.4B)
The global container shortage is a complex problem with no easy solutions.
It's not just global container availability that's an issue. It's also inland infrastructure. Haulage companies in the United States and the United Kingdom are struggling to find enough drivers to meet demand, leading to delays in getting goods to market.
An International Road Transport Union (IRU) survey shows that truck driver shortages in Europe increased by 42% from 2020 to 2021, with open, unfilled driver positions reaching 100,000 in the U.K. The shortage is expected to jump to 40% in 2022.
And the U.S. truck driver shortage could surpass 160,000 in 2030, according to the American Trucking Association.
This shipping crisis is having a major impact on businesses that rely on global container availability.
This includes the wine industry, which is facing challenges involving several key factors.
New disruptions to the supply chain include:
China: The government's zero-COVID-19 has had consequences for cities that serve as major manufacturing and exporting hubs, like Chengdu, Dalian, Guangzhou, Shenzhen and Tianjin. Although port operations are exempt from restrictions, other areas such as manufacturing and inland logistics have been impacted.
Germany: After a long and difficult negotiation process, German labor and employer unions have finally agreed on a tariff that will ease congestion at the ports of Hamburg and Bremerhaven. The new tariff is valid for two years and applies to 12,000 employees at German seaports.
United Kingdom: Unionized workers in the industrial sector continued their strike action into October at the ports of Liverpool and Felixstowe. There is potential for more strikes at the Port of Felixstowe between now and Christmas, and it's possible that other UK ports will follow suit.
United States: Although the queue of ships waiting to enter ports in Southern California has dispersed, it appears to have reappeared in Savannah where approximately 40 container vessels are anchored and waiting to dock. There have also been around 15 vessels waiting in New York. Many people breathed a sigh of relief on Sept. 15 when railroad unions and companies reached a tentative agreement, avoiding a strike. Approximately 40% of the US's long-distance trade is transported by rail, so any significant service disruptions would cause devastating shipping delays during the holiday season in December.
There is no quick fix for the global container shortage.
It's a complex problem that will take time to resolve. There are some steps that wine suppliers can take to try to mitigate the impact of the global container availability crisis.
Ship goods in larger volumes less frequently.
Use alternative modes of transport, such as air, rail or road.
Book cargo as early as possible.
Cover your products with cargo insurance.
Stay up to date on the latest developments in global container availability.
These solutions will not only help reduce costs and improve global container availability, but they will also help protect your business in the event of delays or disruptions.
Hillebrand Gori is the go-to global logistics company for the wine, beer and spirits industry, with years of experience.
We have a team of experts who can help you navigate the global container shortage and find the best solution for your shipping needs.
Contact us today to learn more about how we can help you with your global shipping needs.