Global Shipping Container Shortage: The Story So Far

Updated: May 7

By Ship Technology

This article was published in UK-based Ship Technology, and its sister publication Just-Style, April 29, 2021. Many SPESA members have had difficulties finding shipping containers to transport their products at a reasonable price. This article does a good job explaining the causes of this problem, its impact, and how a few shipping companies are trying to address.


The global shortage of shipping containers, primarily caused by the Covid-19 pandemic, has led to drastic inflation in shipping and container prices and increased delay times for companies. We ask why shipping is facing this container shortage and investigate the global impact.


Freight shipping has found itself in a unique situation where unforeseen events have left a global shortage of containers, which has had a domino effect down the supply chain, disrupting global trade.


Early last year, when the Covid-19 pandemic began to spread, many countries began implementing national lockdowns and ceasing the production of goods, which ultimately pulled the plug on economic growth.


Shipping companies began reducing the number of cargo ships that were being sent out. This not only stopped the usual flow of imported and exported goods, but also saw empty containers not being collected.


The most significant example of this can be seen in the American regions, where Asian containers could not be sent back due to Covid-19 restrictions.


As countries started to grapple with Covid-19 to recover, China – the first country to be impacted by the disease – began to recover. Ultimately, this meant China was able to resume its import and export trade while other countries were unable to do so.