Faced with a shortage of containers, Maersk Line is rejecting some shipments and retrieving cargo boxes from customers more quickly to meet the situation, according to Exim News Service.
"There are hundreds of little things that we are trying to do but at the end of the day, there is a shortage and we can’t fix that," Mr Soren Karas, head of Maersk Line’s South China operations, said.
Maersk Line has reactivated idled vessels to help relocate empty containers and ordered new boxes after a larger-than-expected jump in shipping demand squeezed supplies.
The global container box fleet shrank by 4 per cent last year, according to Textainer Group Holdings Ltd, the world’s largest container lessor, after shipping lines cut spending on new units amid the global recession and slumping trade.
Shipping demand "is still growing much faster than we were expecting". Manufacturers may produce the equivalent of 1.5 million TEUs this year, up from 200,000 last year, said one box shipping operator.
The container shortage may persist till the third quarter before easing in the last three months of the year, he felt. The last quarter is traditionally a slower period for container lines.
The shortage of boxes has been compounded by shipping lines operating vessels more slowly to save on fuel costs. This means that journeys take longer, and that containers spend more time onboard vessels.
Container lines traditionally impose peak season levies from around the middle of the year.
The combination of levies and rebounding demand has pushed freight rates to near historical highs, according to the Hong Kong Shippers’ Council (HKSC).
"Since they have imposed peak season and other additional surcharges, they (lines) should be delivering better services and boosting their shipping speeds," Executive Director of HKSC, Mr Sunny Ho, said.