Prices for shipping containers, the metal boxes that carry 90 percent of the world’s manufactured goods, have risen to their highest since October 2015, a clear indicator that seaborne trade is increasing and should grow further this year.
The Harpex Shipping Index, which tracks weekly shipping container rates, has climbed 40 percent this year to 439 points. Container charterers say that lead times to order container have risen, to over a month in some cases, as not enough are available to meet demand.
The tight market for the standardized boxes is a result of carriers cutting overcapacity and follows some bankruptcies. But the gains also point to a recovery in global trading after years of lackluster growth.
“The market seems tight… (and) we are urging liners to release more box,” said Willy Lin, chairman of the Hong Kong Shippers’ Council, which represents manufacturers and cargo owners.
Sector-specific factors like the scrapping of excess ships and the bankruptcy of South Korea’s Hanjin Shipping have pushed up the index. But, shippers also say that increasing international trade has added to the container shortage.