Tight container market hits exports to Asia

Loading container ships in Rotterdam. Photo: Depositphotos.com

Dutch exporters to the Middle East and Asia are being hit hard by the lack of container space on ships from Europe, the Financieele Dagblad said on Friday.

Some companies must wait weeks for space on a container ship. ‘It’s dramatic,’ said one Dutch company with orders from Thailand and South Korea. ‘I have containers ready for shipment now but have to wait until mid-April for space on a ship,’ he said.

The largest container shipping line in the world, Maersk of Denmark, said it was searching for solutions to the problem. Germany’s Hapag-Lloyd said it was operating ‘near to the limit’ of its capacity. And Marc Beerlandt, head of the Belgian office of container shipper MSC said: ‘This is huge. The phone is ringing off the hook from exporters who cannot ship their goods.’

The development is surprising because there has been structural overcapacity in the market for the past two years.

Joost Sitskoorn of shippers organisation EVO/Fenedex is presently in Jakarta for the annual meeting of the global shippers group GSA. He said there  were many complaints there about lack of capacity and high tariffs. He added there was also under-capacity on the Asia-North America services.

Shippers appear to be willing to pay a premium to get their goods to Asia. Some tariffs between Rotterdam and Shanghai, normally $200 per container, have shot up to between $1,500 and $2,000, the FD said.