So, have you heard about the massive international shipping crisis coming out of China, and the accompanying shortage of overseas shipping containers?
Actually, I have, lots of times—seeing as how my brother hauls containers out of Charleston and Savannah for a living, and calls me about five-six times a day, five and sometimes six days a week, to yell about one dipshit “good enough for gummint work” problem or another he’s currently dealing with while he’s sitting in endless lines at the port waiting to get either a container or the chassis the container sits on to pull back to NC. He’s been particularly perplexed over the sudden scarcity of both containers and chassis lately, and we’ve spent a good bit of time on the phone trying to suss out what the reasons for that might be.
Turns out, it’s a pretty complex problem.
Freight shipping is in the midst of a unique and unusual predicament. An unforeseen cascade of events caused by the pandemic has us facing a worldwide container shortage crisis. It’s a crisis because the lack of containers has a ripple effect down entire supply chains, disrupting trade on a global scale.
As the pandemic spread out from its Asian epicentre, countries implemented lockdowns, halting economic movements and production. Many factories closed temporarily, causing large numbers of containers to be stopped at ports. To stabilize costs and the erosion of ocean rates, carriers reduced the number of vessels out at sea. Not only did this put the brakes on import and export, it also meant empty containers were not picked up. This was especially significant for Asian traders, who couldn’t retrieve empty containers from North America.
Then, a unique scenario developed. Asia, being the first hit by the pandemic, was also the first to recover. So while China resumed exports earlier than the rest of the world, other nations were (and still are) dealing with restrictions, a reduced workforce and minimal production.
A consequence of this is that almost all of the remaining containers in Asia headed out to Europe and North America, but those containers did not come back quickly enough. Massive workforce disruptions due to coronavirus restrictions in North America affected not only ports, but cargo depots all across the country as well as inland transport lines. Without adequate staffing, containers started to pile up. As borders tightened, customs became more complicated to clear as well, worsening congestion. In addition, there were rapid shifts in tradelane demands that were challenging for carriers to adapt to.
Now, that seems a little odd, since it doesn’t explain why containers and chassis would be so difficult to find on the US East Coast at all. In fact, the central premise of the article seems to completely contradict the issue my brother has been dealing with every day, for a cpl-three months now. But attentive readers can pick up at least one solid hint from the piece, involving what happens when instant despots—Just add Covid!!™—start behaving as if economies as sprawling as ours can be stopped and started as easily as flicking a light switch on and off, with no unanticipated ill effects.
Maybe Buck’s next link can clear things up a little further.
Never before has the humble ocean shipping container been this important to American business. If you can’t get one, you can’t move your international cargo — and supply has never been tighter. The cost of global trade is now contingent on how many containers exist, where they are and where they aren’t.
How many containers exist is controlled by China. Virtually every ocean shipping container in the world is built there.
Just three Chinese companies account for the majority of production, with Chinese factories now building more than 96% of the world’s dry cargo containers and 100% of the world’s refrigerated containers, according to U.K. consultancy Drewry.
Ahh, the Dinks, then. Quelle surprise.
Buck has plenty more along these lines, but the above ought to provide sufficient confirmation that allowing FederalGovCo to incentivize nominally American corporations to stab their employees in the backs with their own weaponized tax dollars via relocating virtually all US manufacturing to Red China might not have been such a hot idea after all. His closer:
I’ve got a simple idea that can mitigate a whole lot of these problems. Products that are to be sold in the USA can also be manufactured in the USA. Once manufactured, they won’t be impacted by exotic new virus outbreaks in China, or by a lack of Chinese containers, or by backups in Chinese ports, or even by the ick factor of China’s slave labor.
Even if manufacturing is simply moved from China to other countries, it is way past time to disengage from China.
Do I even need to remind anyone that Trump had made a pretty good start on that during his term, having already secured agreements with major US firms to either keep domestic plants running that they had been planning to shut down, or to build new facilities here? Of course, we all know how that ended up.
No Sooner Is Trump Out Of Office, Ford Is Switching US$900 Mln Investment From Ohio To Mexico
The Ford Motor Company has backed out of a pledge to invest US$900 million in an assembly plant near Cleveland, Ohio and will instead switch production to Mexico.
In 2019 – when Donald Trump was president – Ford had promised to invest in the factory in Avon Lake, which employs 1,700 workers producing the Ford E-series van and Super Duty pickup truck.
As a lifelong Ford fanatic, you can easily imagine how I felt about that. Bastards.