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Shipping Containers – costs, availability & other news

The month of May saw both price and availability issues worsen for shipping containers. This is unlikely to ease in June.

Based on Netchem’s internal data, the cost of an FCL from China to Toronto is approximately 350% higher in May 2021 vs. May 2020. Reports indicate that the cost of shipping a container from China to the West coast has risen more than 300% since the beginning of the pandemic1. In the month of May alone, transatlantic shipping rates have risen between 8.9%-26.3%2.

Bottlenecks in the supply chain are a global issue driven by factory closings, commodity shortages, the COVID-19 pandemic and the blockage of the Suez Canal in March1. Major shipping lines have voided sailing schedules in at attempt to reset their networks, resulting in unreliable departure estimates and shipping schedules2. Despite these challenges, it appears that container-lines are benefitting from these disruptions and are likely to post record profits2.

    • The Yantian International Container Terminal in China extended an export suspension due to logistics congestion. Three of twenty shipping berths have closed due to COVID outbreaks, which will result in further delays3.
  • Recent storms in India may also further impact shipping to and from this country2.
  • The slow turnaround of vessels is one of the major drivers of the container shortage and delayed shipping3.

Based on the fact that August is generally a high season for shipping from Asia to the US and that US retail inventories remain low while sales remain strong, demand for containers will remain high in the near term.

Supply Chain Planning

While in April’s update we advised using a lead time of at least 12 weeks, the availability of freight has drastically decreased over the last couple of weeks. As covered above, departure schedules have become increasingly unreliable as shipping lines fail to sail fully loaded with cargo. This is unlikely to ease in June.

The backlog at the port of Los Angeles has eased slightly but remains over 50 days. This congestion has resulted in the routing of containers through other ports including in Canada. Dwell times at Canadian ports range from 5-15 days.

Netchem anticipates that freight rates will remain high at least through the summer, with high prices and delays continuing to impact the supply chain into Q1 2022.

Determining whether to buy now at high prices or wait in the hopes that shipping costs and lead times will ease is a difficult business decision. Our team is happy to consult with you on an individual project basis wherever needed.



1 Globe and Mail; May 31 2021; Mark Rendell, “Firms deal with supply-chain bottlenecks amid recovery”
2 Panjiva; June 2, 2021; “Back into the void – S&P Global Platts container update”
3 News,; May 26, 2021; “Threat to sailing schedules from new congestion problem at Yantian port”