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Crunch at European ports after Suez unblocking

Photo: Port of Rotterdam Authority Rotterdam port.jpg
Europe’s main container ports are receiving far more boxes than are departing, according to Container xChange.

The increase in imports comes after the blockage of the Suez Canal by Ever Given caused huge tailbacks of ships, and the canal’s unblocking released the queue of laden vessels on their way to Europe.

Week-on-week, the increase in incoming 20-foot dry containers in week 17 was 3.75% in Rotterdam, 3.5% in Antwerp and 2.2% in Hamburg.

Container xChange’s container availability index (CAx), where readings below 0.5 show more containers leaving a port compared to entering, and readings over 0.5 show more containers entering a port than leaving, showed the increase in European imports.

CAx readings at the start of 2021 were 0.48, 0.65 and 0.38 in Hamburg, Rotterdam and Antwerp, respectively; this rose to 0.8, 0.74 and 0.78 in week nine and 0.93, 0.83 and 0.9 in week 17.

Container xChange said the situation in Felixstowe, UK, had been dire all year, with a lowest CAx of 0.87 in week three, and a reading of 0.95 in week 17.

Dr Johannes Schlingmeier, CEO & Founder of Container xChange, said: “Europe’s top container terminals have been struggling to keep congestion at bay, with incoming boxes outweighing outgoing boxes for much of 2021. The closure of the Suez Canal appears to have only made the box crunch at Europe’s hubs only slightly worse than it already was.

“What we’re hearing from our container leasing and trading members is that they find it increasingly difficult to book export containers with the carriers across Europe. It seems shipping lines are prioritising empty containers in order to move the boxes back to China as fast as possible.”

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