Global shipping container bottlenecks and 'bunching' set continue for 2022

Ashley Walmsley
By Ashley Walmsley
March 23 2022 - 10:00pm
BOTTLENECK: Labour shortages and now the Ukraine conflict are having an impact on the flow of shipping containers throughout the globe. Picture: Shutterstock.

JUST as the global pandemic has impacted on labour availability at the farm level, so too are impacts having knock-on effects for export shipping containers and handling.

Port of Melbourne head of business development Leatrice Treharne addressed the topic at the Citrus Technical Forum 2022 on the Sunshine Coast on March 8, saying freight rates remain at an all time high with port congestion continuing to challenge the supply chain.

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She said there was global concern over vessel bunching where congestion occurs with multiple vessels arriving within a window at the same time.

"Inbound containers are not moving away from the port as quickly as they should as retail distribution centres are lacking labour to unload them," she said.

Ms Treharne said growers and exporters would do well to re-think their traditional routes.

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"Don't use what you've always done and try to diversify your risk," she said.

"The message from the shipping lines is don't put all your eggs into one basket."

Fresh fruit is a growing export category through the Port of Melbourne with a five year compound annual growth rate of 5.2 per cent.

There was a ray of hope though, as Ms Treharne said the stabilisation of the global shipping market was anticipated in the next 12 months.

BUNCHING: Speaking at the Citrus Technical Forum 2022, Leatrice Treharne, head of business development, Port of Melbourne says there is global concern over vessel bunching where congestion occurs with multiple vessels arriving within a window at the same time.

"Be ready for anything and always be prepared," she said.

"Shipping lines aren't very scary. You can pick up the phone and talk to them."

A recent report from Container xChange, an online logistics company involved in container leasing and trading, said two weeks after Russia's invasion of Ukraine, there seems to be a negligible impact on the container prices and leasing rates in China.

Since China's announcement of nationwide lockdowns, the supply chain must prepare for turmoil in the coming months, impeding the flow of container movement as importers worldwide prepare for the coming peak season later this year, according to the report.

Container xChange chief executive officer Dr Johannes Schlingmeier said freight rates and container prices were already at a record high even before the invasion started.

"And what happened immediately due to the war is that the Russian ports were not being called by the national shipping lines anymore, the Black Sea being somehow closed, and the Asia European railway being quite hit by this," Dr Schlingmeier said.

CHAIN: Dr Johannes Schlingmeier, CEO, Container xChange says container prices at record highs, containers piling up and a massive shortage as well.

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"The immediate impact of this on the overall supply chain has not started to show up.

"Not ignoring the fact that the Russian importance on global trade is not big enough for the containerised cargo to really disrupt the supply chains.

"We see on the other side, the container prices at record highs, containers piling up and a massive shortage as well.

"This is a result of many more other disruptions over the past two years since the pandemic started"

"Lockdowns in China will further reduce capacity and cause a surge in already inflated shipping prices.

"The shockwaves will be felt across the US and America, and almost everywhere in the world."

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Ashley Walmsley

Ashley Walmsley

Editor, Good Fruit & Vegetables

For more than a decade, Ashley Walmsley has written about Australian agriculture. Having grown up on his parents smallcrops, cane and cattle property in Queensland, but clearly unable to grow anything himself, it was a natural progression for him to pursue a career writing about rural industries. He is currently the editor of Fairfax Media’s only national, fresh produce magazine, Good Fruit & Vegetables, while also covering horticulture stories for the agricultural papers and websites. When not writing about vegetables, fruits and nuts, Ashley enjoys playing and discussing video games from a simpler time, and doing impersonations of ABC radio presenters.

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