Container prices surging in Europe

According to the latest data from Container xChange, for European exporters, existing container shortages could deteriorate significantly in the coming weeks. The data suggest carriers still favor shipping empties back to Asia as fast as possible to maximize yields on main-haul services, rather than wait for less lucrative backhaul loads.

According to the Container xChange report, the upshot for shippers is rapidly rising prices in Europe for containers even though the Container Availability Index (CAx) data point to a higher availability of boxes in European hubs, while Container xChange figures do not track empty moves.

Dr Johannes Schlingmeier, founder and CEO of Container xChange: “The confluence of theoretical high availability and soaring prices for boxes strongly indicates that container lines are prioritising empty containers over export cargo from Europe. There were signs of this even before the Suez Canal closure in late March. The latest figures suggest the additional disruption this caused has exacerbated the situation and made it even harder for exporters to find empties.”

The latest container trading data reveals that between January and April average prices for used 20ft containers across Europe rose 57% from US$1,348 to US$2,119. Meanwhile, in April, price increases for 20ft containers were especially severe.

In Hamburg, the average CAx reading this year to date is 0.75 compared with 0.39 in the first half of 2020, while at Rotterdam the reading is 0.71 this year, compared to 0.46.

“An increase in incoming shipping containers by 4%-5% over the next weeks is likely to not only increase CAx readings but also contribute to slowly decreasing container prices again,” said Dr Schlingmeier. “These are good times for equipment owners across Europe as indications are that even if container prices dip slightly, scarcity will remain until carriers change tack and start looking for more backloads. As a result, container prices are likely to remain at elevated levels for some time, although we do think availability for exporters will improve in the coming months.”


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