Peak season cargo surge could be worse than 2021

This year’s summer peak season cargo surge will be even more chaotic for global supply chains than the 2021 peak shipping season, according to forwarders, traders and shippers surveyed by Container xChange.

Containers shortage in Europe - Analysis by xChange

The container logistics technology outfit said in its latest survey that 51 percent of respondents expect the 2022 peak season to be “worse” than last year. Some 26 percent predicted this year’s peak season would be less chaotic than in 2021, while 22 percent expect the level of “chaos” to be the same. 

The peak container shipping season traditionally occurs in the third quarter of each year as retailers build up inventories ahead of the fourth quarter holiday and shopping season. Last year, cargo surges resulted in record container shipping freight rates, delivery delays, port congestion, and reliability of container shipping services.

In terms of container sourcing strategy in 2022 when compared to pre-pandemic times, 56 percent said they had been “growing networks”, 38 percent said they had agreed to long-term contracts and 25 percent said they had followed a multi-tender strategy.

China’s zero-Covid strategy limits exports to Europe and the US

Nearly 38 percent of respondents said they were ensuring clients received enough inventory by shipping early in 2022, while 25 percent were “using alternative shipment routes” and just under 19 percent were contracting long-term slot agreements with carriers. 

Surprisingly, 62.5 percent said they were still relying on the spot market or doing nothing specific to ensure shipments reach clients.

Meanwhile, Covid lockdowns in China continue to weigh heavily on trade. Fifty-eight percent of respondents reported that Covid lockdowns in China had made it “hard to produce/ship as much product as planned”, suggesting that cargo backlogs and unsatisfied demand are building as China’s zero-Covid strategy limits exports to Europe and the US.

Christian Roeloffs, co-founder and CEO, of Container xChange, said one big question is whether China is going to sacrifice its zero Covid-19 policy to get trade and its economy moving again. 

“If it does, then there’s every sign that we’ll see a substantial surge as backlogs of exports are shipped,” he commented. “However, there are very few indicators so far that President Xi is willing to compromise health policy to boost trade.”