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Everything you need to know about the current shipping container stock shortage

Last Updated on October 4, 2023

At Billie Box, we believe in being transparent above all else. This means that there are times when we have to report on situations that we realise aren’t ideal, but that our customers have a right to be fully informed on. It is for this reason that we wanted to put together a short piece to explain the current climate in the shipping container industry to provide the kind of clarity that customers need when making decisions.

With factories in China reduced the rate of production on shipping containers there is currently a noticeable shortage of availability. As well as shrinking supply, the price of containers has risen as the manufacturing costs have also increased by around 60%. 

Whilst these are the two primary drivers which are preventing customers from acquiring containers, the shortage is very much a consequence of the lockdowns which took place over the last year. In particular, the Covid-19 lockdowns meant that:

  • Ships were occasionally stranded in the wrong location and schedules were subsequently thrown into turmoil 
  • Many dock workers were prevented from working due to sickness that meant ships weren’t loaded as efficiently as they usually are, creating significant delays.
  • Containers were occasionally offloaded to nearby ports to free up ship space. Some of these containers are still stuck in these ports and are contributing to the delay of regular operations.
  • An increase in high value Chinese imports like televisions and technology devices has caused shipping fees to rise.
  • The NHS required a large number of containers to use for the secure storage of PPE which limited the amount of supply available.

Compounding the issues caused by Covid-19, the finalising of Brexit negotiations also impacted the shipping container industry. Specifically, instances of stockpiling and additional legislation led to further delays and reduction of supply.

Altogether, the Covid-19 lockdowns and Brexit created something of a perfect storm for the shipping container industry. When it comes to forecasting how long it will be until this storm passes, industry-leaders have estimated that it will take around two years before things return to “business as usual”. This is, of course, in the event that there are no further lockdowns which impede the recovery process. 

Much like the pandemic, the current shortage of shipping containers for sale and for hire is a worldwide problem.

Frustratingly, this is also an expensive problem.

As Chinese manufacturers work hard to build new containers for the shipping lines and meet ever-growing demand, the price for new containers has naturally risen. This rise is far from insignificant and has meant that the price of shipping containers is at a 72 year high and ultimately impacts the end users. 

It should be pointed out that the lead time on containers has risen alongside the cost and is currently at around three to four weeks time.

Whilst the current climate presents an obvious challenge, our team at Billie Box remains unwavering in their commitment to providing the best possible experience for customers. For any needs you have, please do not hesitate to get in touch today to find out how we can help. T: 0800 121 7388