Second wave of Corona: Alarming sea freight bottlenecks

Slow availability of containers and shortage of shipping space.

Every year again: The peak season before Christmas is in full swing – but in 2020 conditions are much more difficult. It’s getting tight for goods from the Far East if they are to be under the Christmas tree in time. In markets such as China, Thailand or Vietnam, there is hardly any container equipment available for sea freight. It is just as complicated to get space on a container ship from Asia to Europe. In view of the high capacity utilization, Alf Hoernig, General Manager Import at a. hartrodt in Hamburg, recommends for full containers: "FCL shipments should be booked at least four weeks in advance".

Similar to the beginning of the Covid-19 pandemic

At the same time, the experts at a. hartrodt are observing an increasing demand for containers and shipping capacity for exports from Northern Europe. "We now have a similar market situation to that at the beginning of the year, at the start of the Covid-19 pandemic," says Matthias Pichler, General Manager Ocean Freight Asia at a. hartrodt in Hamburg. And this clashes with the "continued recovery process" of the German economy, which the Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Energy states for the fourth quarter.

Carriers see customers as cash cow

Currently, a strongly increased demand for containers in the transpacific trade lanes meets blank sailing programs of carriers (alliances) as well as ships with reduced transport capacities. Nevertheless, a. hartrodt always finds a solution for customers with the fastest possible handling and low additional costs. Rate increases or freight surcharges sometimes announced at very short notice, such as peak season surcharges or container imbalance surcharges, annoy Willem van der Schalk, Managing Director at a. hartrodt in Hamburg: "Carriers use us and our customers as cash cow and increase their results in the Corona crisis. "

The tense sea freight situation for imports from the Far East is likely to continue at least until Chinese New Year on February 12, 2021. Alternatively, a. hartrodt loads from China by rail (Stars on Rails) or truck as well as urgent shipments by air (Golden Services).