More trouble ahead for ocean freight?

Date Added: 23 November 2021

As a provider of global ocean freight forwarding services, Davies Turner has noted that the wave of congestion that is sweeping through global supply chains is unlikely to go away any time soon. Industry observers have been quick to describe the current seasonal shipping period as a ‘Peak season like no other’, adding that recovery is likely to be prolonged.

The deliveries of seasonal goods and essential commodities have been left high and dry for many shippers faced with meeting impossible delivery deadlines while paying record shipping rates to get their goods on shelves and in warehouses for the winter holiday season.

In a perfect storm for importers and exporters, many are experiencing historically poor levels of service from asset owners such as shipping lines, ports and terminals, and inland logistics facilities, while at the same time paying the highest shipping rates and surcharges seen for decades, say industry observers.

This started with lock downs in Chinese ports. This was followed by a worldwide shortage of empty containers. Then what ships were in transit were maxed out and slots were like gold dust, while costing as much. Once the goods arrived at a port, the ships were often parked outside, waiting for quayside space and cranes to unload the boxes. There would then be no driver able to move the box away from the quay to the hinterland.

The most vulnerable businesses are the importers and distributors fighting to meet delivery deadlines set by their retailer customers. These companies cannot predict when the goods they have paid so much to have transported will actually be available.

Over the next few weeks, it is hoped that deliveries for a number of holiday seasons are safe. However, Davies Turner has to ask will this congestion and tight market conditions persist through 2022? On the other hand, will consumer demand slacken; and will capacity and resilience improve service levels and prices become more predictable?

Davies Turner considers that this maritime congestion will take some time to unwind. If the ‘Great Shipping Crisis of 2021’ proves to be a one-off, then the speed at which shipping rates shadow the drop in demand will be a critical indicator of the responsiveness and competitiveness of this market next year and into the future.

For more information about Davies Turner’s ocean freight forwarding and logistics services, please contact [email protected] or visit

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