Dec 01, 2020 06:09 PM

Container Shortage Shows China’s Export Dominance During Pandemic

What’s new: Fresh data from container tracking service provider Container xChange indicates ports in Shanghai for the week ending Oct. 22 faced a shortage of 40-foot containers not seen since January 2019.

The service provider’s weekly Container Availability Index for the Shanghai region fell to 0.05 for the week. A number above 0.5 indicates a surplus while a number below 0.5 suggests a deficit of such containers.

The availability of containers in Shanghai peaked in February amid the outbreak of Covid-19 in China, but supply has tightened since March after the country gradually recovered from the pandemic-related lockdowns. A similar pattern has also played out in other coastal cities, including Ningbo and Dalian.

What’s the background: The shortage in containers came as China’s exports have risen in recent months as it rushed to meet demand caused by the suspension of other suppliers due to the Covid-10 pandemic. The issue has also been exacerbated by the fact that imports to the world’s second-largest economy has remained sluggish, with manufacturers outside China still being affected by the pandemic, leaving empty containers piled up in other countries.

The distribution issue has affected shipments, with shipping companies trying all sorts of solutions to solve the problem, including using refrigerated containers and even transporting empty containers to where they are most needed, a person at logistics group Maersk told Caixin.

Quick Takes are condensed versions of China-related stories for fast news you can use. To read the full Caixin article in Chinese, click here.

Contact reporter Lu Yutong ( and editor Marcus Ryder (

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