Although container production is up in the wake of last year’s critical shortages, prices for the boxes have nearly doubled in the last two years and shippers will face an ongoing shortage of the equipment for the near future, according to a report by Drewry Maritime Research.
The record replacement value also reflects the increased unit prices of containers, which are near a record of more than $3,000 per 20-foot equivalent unit.
At the end of 2010, the replacement value of the global fleet of containers exceeded $90 billion for the first time, according to the report, “Container Census – Annual Survey and Forecast of Global Container Units”.
Drewry’s forecast of persistent box shortages mirrors a report issued by the World Shipping Council in May that suggests shippers and cargo interests plan and forecast to ensure they have containers when and where they’re needed.
The shortages persist because the two dominant Chinese container manufacturers were restricted to operating at half of their maximum twin-shift potential throughout 2010. Problems associated with restarting factory lines, largely due to the difficulty of rehiring workers who returned to their homes in the interior after being laid off in 2009, were the cause.
“If capacity is more tightly controlled by the container manufacturing sector than in the past, it will likely result in higher new container prices”, said Andrew Foxcroft, a container analyst who wrote the report.
Material and production costs are also forecast to rise over the longer term, thereby providing a further inflationary stimulus.
“It remains to be seen if continued high container prices will deter new investment, particularly from cash-strapped shipping lines who have found it harder to secure financing in recent years,” Foxcroft said.
Drewry expects that the availability of containers will be tight during the forthcoming peak season, but that problems of shortages of boxes will not be as acute and as widespread as in 2010.