Port of Hamburg: supply of empty containers is assured

Port of Hamburg: supply of empty containers is assured
Containers at the Port of Hamburg

Shipping lines see no appreciable scarcity of equipment in the Port of Hamburg or the German seaports and are not expecting any shortages to arise, a Port of Hamburg Marketing (HHM) flash poll has found.

The poll was conducted in response to media reports about bottlenecks in the supply of empty containers based off of online platform Container xChange’s Container Availability Index (CAx).

xChange reported in its CAx, dated March 16, 2020, that there is “almost no container equipment in Europe and Northern America due to the carriers blank sailings”.

It claimed that this was because carriers wanted to be ready in China, waiting for the economy to go up again.

xChange added that while most of its Chinese customers had returned to work, most countries in Europe have shut-down operations, meaning that container inspections, handling or stuffing are heavily delayed.

However, the shipping lines that took part in HHM’s poll mentioned several factors that provide for a stable supply of empty equipment.

Most shipping companies plan their disposition of empty boxes about three to four weeks in advance.

Generally shipping lines take advantage of markets with an oversupply such as the US, UK and Israel as the source for empty containers in Hamburg or other Northern European ports.

The Port of Hamburg added that direct shipping of empties from China is rare and has not been necessary recently.

Axel Mattern, CEO of HHM, said: “With the recovery of the Chinese economy, which is already making itself noticeable, shipping, cargo handling, and seaport-hinterland in China will be heading back toward normal operations.

“In view of a slowing economy in Europe, we do not expect to see shortages in the supply of empty containers in Hamburg or the hinterland.”

HHM’s director pointed out that individual shipping lines might run into temporary bottlenecks in supply if short-term imbalances between the flows of import and export container shipping occur.

Scarcity can thus occasionally result from fluctuating supply and demand in inland areas where the depots in the hinterland play an important role in supplying the market with empty equipment for shippers in various region.

Mattern added that seaborne foreign trade on the whole can count on the situation easing as soon as shipping between Asia and Europe returns to normal and the demand for export containers declines in connection with the changing economic conditions.