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Coronavirus impacts transshipment

Reefer containers stranded in China, shortages in the Netherlands

The Coronavirus outbreak is affecting trade between Europe and China. Some locations in China have been hermetically sealed. That means reefer containers are stranded in Chinese ports or inland - cargo and all.

Some carriers are reporting total shortages of 100,000 reefers. These ships contain fruit and vegetable products. Maersk has indicated that 3.500 of its loaded reefer containers are stuck in Chinese harbors. These reefers are stranded in ports as well as in transit to that country's inland. The biggest bottleneck for these reefer containers is at the ports.

"We are seeing reefer container rates skyrocketing," says a Dutch forwarder. "Shortages in the reefer market were occurring in August 2019 already. And now this. We do quite a lot of reefer containers to and from the Far East. This is for, among other things, garlic and pomelo imports for the European market. Currently, many of our colleagues are working from home. We are still filling the volumes. It is just taking us a little longer and more effort than usual."

One expeditor has reported that it now takes a lot of work to book containers. That is due to the situation in China. "The market situation is uncertain and can change at a whim. It is guesswork. Here, on our floor, it causes inherent challenges when it comes to booking containers. We usually have eight container ships arriving from China. But, since March, there have only been two. The ships have less equipment. With less capacity, less export to China is possible."

The situation will also not improve any time soon. "I actually hope this situation will force things to be brought into better balance in the Netherlands," says the forwarder. "After all, fewer loads could be sent to China. Then more reefers will be available for other markets. But that is not a sure thing."

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