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Don’t Be Troubled by the Emptiness: Proper Planning Can Help Shippers Navigate Empty Container Issue

While many predicted the empty container shortage would improve this year, the reality is this has become a seemingly never-ending problem that continues to confound the industry. This issue, which emerged following the initial impact of COVID-19, has become a very serious market complication because continued congestion has been tying up equipment.


As a result, the lack of containers is wreaking havoc on a global scale. According to Reuters, delays in shipments from China to Europe are impacting European exports to the U.S. East Coast. These delays are a major contributing factor to port congestion at U.S. East Coast ports.

“Container allocation is a problem that is going to persist for quite a while, and it will continue to be a major cause of global congestion,” said Anthony Fullbrook, President of OEC Group’s Northeast Region. “Additionally, the impending labor issue on the U.S. West Coast has the potential to strike a major blow to the flow of containers.”

To combat the container crunch, a number of shippers have resorted to breakbulk. According to The Loadstar, rice and sugar are two commodities that have been converted back from containerized to loose breakbulk. Rather than pack these goods into containers, shippers have been able to take advantage of more available capacity on bulker services. At this point in the overall market it may become more popular as container capacity issues persist.

“While the industry struggles with container shortages, the reality is there are viable options available to shippers beyond simply waiting,” said Logan Cooper, Senior Manager of Traffic for OEC Group’s Northeast Region. “This requires shippers to work with a seasoned logistics professional who has the industry relationships to access equipment because in this industry having the right relationships can make all the difference between success and failure.”
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