Shipping problems have escalated still further after a series of recent outbreaks of COVID-19 in some of China’s busiest ports, causing the worst shipping delays in years.
The situation has impacted virtually every sector from fishing tackle to furniture to food products and has raised concerns about shortages during the winter holiday season. According to a report by Reuters, the biggest problem is in the Guangdong province in southern China, an area heavily populated by manufacturers.
The Chinese Government has applied stricter COVID rules around some of the larger ports and the resulting slowdown has exacerbated the already serious congestion.
The crisis is further compounded by the six-day blocking of the Suez Canal by the giant Japanese container ship, Ever Given (pictured). Although the incident took place in late March, it remains a factor behind major backlogs and the effects may be felt for many months to come.
Problems first arose early last year when COVID caused some shipping routes to be cancelled and container availability worsened. This was followed by port closures, the Suez Canal blockage and labour shortages, which left containers stranded.
International freight costs have spiralled, with limited availability and long delays causing havoc in the global supply chain. Container shortages and shipping delays are expected to last until early 2022.
Packaging has also been affected. Data provided by Thomas.com shows that sourcing for shipping boxes is 500% up on the last quarter, while the Wall Street Journal reported that the huge surge in e-commerce has caused Americans to use more corrugated cardboard boxes last year than ever before, leading to a global shortage of packaging materials.