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  • Joseph O'Donnell

Concern for U.S. exporters grows as empty ocean container shortage worsens

Updated: Mar 6


A decline in imports from China to the U.S. means less available equipment for U.S. exporters to ship products, New York Sea Port. Photo: Wix Media

Many Chinese factories and operations are still shut down in response to the coronavirus, causing an abnormal extension to the U.S. annual lull in import volumes following the Lunar New Year.


Thus, U.S. exporters are being warned that this extended slow period will lead to a shortage in the availability of empty ocean containers in the upcoming weeks.


U.S. exporters have already been experiencing complications due to blank vessel sailings which have been causing shipment delays and warehouse congestion issues.


Outer Seaways has recently received notices from carriers that more blank sailings will be issued in addition to those previously announced, further lessening the influx of containers entering U.S. terminals.


As the number of inbound U.S. container shipments decline, many inland container hubs like Chicago, Minneapolis, Phoenix, St. Louis and similar locations will lack sufficient equipment to meet the demands of export shipments originating from those regions.


Any equipment shortage will add to the delays and warehouse congestion currently being felt by exporters. Additionally, ocean rates can be expected to increase as the demand for vessel space grows and the number of available vessel sailings drops.


Finding available equipment in the U.S. for export shipments will become a certain reality in the upcoming months if operations in China are not able to return to normal soon.


U.S. exporters should anticipate difficulties booking ocean containers and higher rates from the expected increase in demand and congestion.


We at Outer Seaways recommend that exporters plan their shipments in advance and consult us regarding the availability of equipment and sailings.


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