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The spiraling container industry of 2023

Looking back at 2022, the fluctuation in container rates and the supply chain will likely have important implications for 2023. As the low spot rates are expected to have an influence on annual contract rates for both ocean shipping and trucking, businesses will need to carefully consider their transportation strategies in the coming year. It will also be important for carriers to accurately anticipate demand and adjust their capacity accordingly, in order to avoid oversupply or shortages. As the inflation rate and geopolitics may extend the recession into 2023, it will be crucial for companies to find cost-effective solutions for their logistics needs. Overall, we will peek back at the events of 2022 to use them as an important reference point for companies as they navigate the logistics market in 2023.

Photo by Chuttersnap

One factor that contributed to the high demand for containers in early 2022 was the COVID-19 pandemic, which disrupted global supply chains and led to increased e-commerce activity. This led to a surge in demand for container shipping, putting pressure on carriers' capacity and increasing rates.

The turning point came as the pandemic gradually subsided and things started to feel like old times once more. Then other factors started influencing the container market such as a surplus of empty containers, less congestion at ports and an increase in the number of available ships. These changes led to fewer delays and bottlenecks in freight traffic, reversing the impact of the pandemic and further reducing rates.

Container shipping began a decline in container rates late last year. According to the latest q4 2022 report, container rates have fallen by more than 50 per cent in some regions, and this trend is expected to continue in the coming months.

Container rates fluctuate due to apparent changes in the supply chain. In September, global container volumes fell by 8.6%, mainly affecting US imports from China, where rates fell by 23%. This trend contrasted with the rise in consumer demand and the corresponding increase in shipping activity earlier in the year.

However, the drop in tariffs has created opportunities for retailers and manufacturers to ship goods at lower costs. The Shanghai Containerized Freight Index showed that a 40-foot container cost $2,773 in early November, significantly less than the $11,197 in January. The reasons for these fluctuating rates are an increase in freight capacity and a decline in demand due to already built-up destination reserve inventories.

There is also a downside to this development. Some carriers are reducing capacity and seeing fit to lay off workers in response to reduced demand. It is possible that a correction of current events could lead to a recovery in freight volumes in 2023. The biggest problem currently lies with North American and European importers, which face the biggest drop in freight rates due to inventory reorganisations.

Overall, the current container market is undergoing spiralling changes, and it remains to be seen how the industry will adapt to current developments. However, one thing is certain: companies that rely on container shipping will be able to take advantage of current market conditions and manage their logistics costs more effectively by 2023.

Our advice for staying on top of changing rates is to agree on rates each month with our sales team. Would you like Sea and Shore to help you with this? If so, please contact us sometime to discuss the possibilities without obligation.


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Sea and Shore consistently works to contribute, develop and pass on knowledge from the world of transport. In this way, we increase the chances of successful collaborations and improve present-day transport knowledge for all.

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