Container Shortages in Asian Ports Spreads to India

Severe equipment shortages at Asian ports have spread to India, causing long delays for exporters, especially on U.S. trades.  The delays, which began earlier this month in China, have caused empties to pile-up at ports in the U.S. and Australia, and prompted carriers to plead for the swift return of used import boxes.

While the equipment shortage in India is most critical at Inland Container Depots (ICD’s), the shortages are even more acute from dry-ports in central and western India, where some shippers have reported waiting periods of one to two weeks to secure bookings and containers.  The shortage is also impacting port-side locations, such as Mumbai and Mundra, with most direct and trans-shipment services to the U.S. experiencing delays.

The situation in India is partly due to a drop in import volumes from China after the government imposed trade restrictions to raise the quality standards of imports, and partly due to affects from the global COVID-19 pandemic.  Export volumes to the U.S. have surged as American importers look to replenish inventory depleted during the shutdown in India earlier this year, and limited container manufacturing in India has also added to the problem.

As a result, carriers have begun to implement guaranteed space surcharges of $750 per container, like the “no-roll” premiums imposed on deep-sea trades over the past few months.

With increased export demand leading up to the Chinese Golden Week holiday, particularly on the transpacific route, the equipment shortage looks unlikely to improve any time soon.