Lockdowns hit container prices, availability at key Asian ports 

  • Reduced box availability and soaring prices expected to occur at ports in Vietnam and China’s Ningbo due to recent COVID-related lockdowns
  • Average container prices at Ho Chi Minh City in Vietnam have jumped from $2,872 in May to $4,875 in August
  • The temporary closure of Meishan Island terminals in Ningbo is already causing a small spike in box prices

Shippers will likely see container availability falling and shipping prices soaring in the coming weeks at ports in China’s Ningbo and Vietnam’s Ho Chi Minh City as fresh COVID-19 outbreaks hit these key shipping hubs, according to the latest data analysis by Container xChange.

A leading online container leasing and trading platform, Container xChange said the disruptive supply chain ripples resulting from COVID lockdowns in Yantian and nearby terminals in southern China in the second quarter of 2021 could also occur in Vietnam and Ningbo in the wake of recent lockdowns at these ports.

The Container Availability Index (CAx) had indicated “a real and measurable spike in container prices and a major drop in container availability when terminals at Yantian saw operations disrupted through most of June,” said Christian Roeloffs, co-founder of Container xChange.

“Early indicators suggest we are likely to see the same impact in Vietnam and at Ningbo.”

According to the CAx, average container prices at the port of Yantian increased from US$5,515 in June to $15,336 this month.

In comparison, much smaller container price increases were noted at the ports of Shanghai and Qingdao over the same period.

On container availability, Yantian saw a similar decline. The CAx reading at Yantian for a 40-foot dry container was 0.61 in Week 17 but fell to 0.47 in Week 22 and 0.3 in week 32. CAx readings for 20-foot dry containers dropped from 0.61 in week 17 to 0.47 in week 22 and just 0.4 in week 33.

A CAx reading of below 0.5 means more containers leave a port compared to the number which enter. Above 0.5 means more containers are entering the port.

The report said some of the patterns evident at Yantian are also expected to emerge at other Asian shipping hubs in the weeks ahead.

In Vietnam, COVID outbreaks that have been disrupting supply chains and port productivity in the country since last month have prompted average container prices at Ho Chi Minh City to jump from $2,872 in May to $4,875 in August.

The short-notice closure of terminals at Meishan Island, part of the Ningbo-Zhoushan port complex in China, this month, is also seen to have significant knock-on impacts on supply chains.

The Meishan port is the third largest container hub in the world by volume after Shanghai and Singapore, handling almost 1.2 billion tons of cargo and almost 29 million TEUs of containers last year.

Early indicators suggest that the temporary closure of Meishan Island terminals is already causing a small spike in container prices, with average August prices climbing to $5,731, up from $5420 in June, said Container xChange.

“Whether we see a further spike in container prices at Ningbo will probably be determined by how much cargo was disrupted at the port and whether we see additional shutdowns later this month,” said Johannes Schlingmeier, CEO & founder of Container xChange.

“Even if there are no additional closures it is likely that container prices will rise on lower availability in the coming weeks due to the lag between liner schedule disruption and container availability and pricing.”

Photo by Genghiskhanviet