After the critical shortages of containers of last year, production has picked up again, but high container prices and a tight ratio of containers to vessel slots will continue to constrain the availability of boxes, according to the Container Census – Annual Survey and Forecast of Global Container Units, a new report from Drewry Maritime Research.
At the end of 2010, the global fleet of containers exceeded $90 billion in replacement value for the first time, according to the report, also reflecting the increased unit prices of containers.
The comprehensive report, the industry’s only detailed survey of the global fleet of containers, contains historical and forecast data for dry freight, reefer, tank and regional equipment types, with each of these categories separately surveyed in detail.
The Container Census contains expert analysis from Andrew Foxcroft, who is widely recognised as the industry’s leading expert on container equipment, having written on the subject for three decades.
The dominant Chinese container manufacturing industry was restricted to operating at half its maximum twin-shift potential throughout 2010, largely because of problems associated with restarting factory lines – and particularly rehiring labour – after more than a year of idleness.
“If capacity is more tightly controlled by the container manufacturing sector than in the past, it will likely result in higher new container prices”, Foxcroft said. Material/production costs are also forecast to rise over the longer term, thereby providing a further inflationary stimulus.
“It remains to be seen if continued high container prices will deter new investment, particularly from cash-strapped shipping lines who have found it harder to secure financing in recent years,” he added.
Drewry expects that the availability of containers will be tight during the forthcoming peak season, but that problems of shortages of boxes will not be as acute and as widespread as in 2010.