Pickup charges for container users are becoming more expensive across Chinese ports due to increasing container imbalances. Prices have reached $950 per one 40HC container ex Shanghai (China) to Duisburg (Germany) in week 42. In this blog, we will look at stretches and discuss how equipment imbalances are affecting pickup charges.
According to Container Availability Index data, European and the US importers currently struggle to return empty containers to Asia. As a result, these ports suffer from increasing dwell times and port congestion. On the other hand, carriers in Chinese ports are setting new regulations to control the imbalances. Hapag Lloyd, for example, will now only release empty containers from its mainland China depots for a maximum of eight days prior to the arrival of the sailing.
To learn how the current market situation reflects on the pickup charges, we have analysed thousands of data points from successful transactions on xChange. But before we run through the findings, let’s briefly explain why there are pickup charges when organizing one-way container moves and how you calculated them.
Why do container owners levy pickup charges?
A pickup charge is a onetime charge for each container that is picked up at the POL. Container owner and user negotiate the pickup charge for each deal. This charge can be paid by both the supplier or the user, depending on the market situation.
Let’s look at a location in which the supplier has a shortage of containers first. In this case, it could be China with decreasing container availability, the pickup charges will typically be paid by the user.
While if the user picks up boxes from a location with a large surplus, such as the US/Europe at the moment, and moves it to a deficit location, the supplier often pays container users to reposition their empty equipment into deficit locations.
Average pickup charges for container users
Stretch — AVERAGE of PU Charge (in USD)
ANTWERP – MUNDRA – 56.5
SHANGHAI – TACOMA, WA – 61.4
PORT KELANG – KARACHI – 82.25
PORT KELANG – NHAVA SHEVA – 91.08
QINGDAO – MOSCOW – 241
SHANGHAI – MOSCOW – 243
SHANGHAI – DUISBURG – 617
SHANGHAI – WARSAW – 735
SHANGHAI – GOTHENBURG – 739.5
For this table, we looked at the most used stretches on Container xChange in the last 4 years. The average price to pickup equipment varies between different locations and container types. On average, container users pay $256 to pick up containers on the platform (if pickup charge > 0).
The top 10 stretches on xChange show that the average pickup charge for the stretches between Chinese and European ports have been more expensive than other ones over the last 4 years with around $640 on average.
Precisely, Shanghai, China to Gothenburg, Sweden is the most expensive stretch as the users have to pay $739 on average to pick up a container. Looking at the development of the last few weeks we can see record numbers for 40HCs at $1050 per container in week 41 and $1250 in week 36. Comparing such record numbers to 2019 demonstrates the current equipment situation.
Another expensive stretch is Shanghai – Warsaw, Poland where container users pay $735 on average. Our data shows that this stretch has maintained a relatively high average over the years. It was $870 on average in 2018, $640 on average in 2019 and $650 in 2020 – most likely due to Warsaw’s inland location.
Average pickup charges for Suppliers
Stretch — AVERAGE of PU Charge (in USD)
DUISBURG – QINGDAO – 59.16
DUISBURG – TIANJIN – 63
DUISBURG – SHANGHAI – 76.35
ANTWERP – NINGBO – 77.5
ANTWERP – TIANJIN – 78.8
ANTWERP – QINGDAO – 83
ANTWERP – SHANGHAI – 87
ANTWERP – DALIAN – 101
ROTTERDAM – SHANGHAI – 128
ROTTERDAM QINGDAO – 133
Looking at charges paid by container suppliers, you can see that the most expensive stretches are ex European ports to China, which is not surprising giving the container imbalance between the continents. However, it is also interesting to see that the average rate of $90 that suppliers pay to reposition equipment from Europe to China is much lower than, for example, what users are currently paying for the pickup units across China.
The most expensive stretch here is Rotterdam, the Netherlands to Qingdao, China. The suppliers paid $136 on average during the last 4 years on xChange to reposition their equipment to China. Pickup credits paid by container owners were usually at around $120 per unit, dropping to $0 – 25, since week 40, due to the current equipment situation.
Other locations where suppliers had to pay more pickup charges for repositioning units to China are Antwerp, Belgium – as well as Hamburg and Duisburg in Germany. From Antwerp, suppliers pay $83 on average, 2019 it was $76 dropping to $59 in 2020. Pickup charges ex Duisburg were not different averaging $76 since 2017 but dropping to $38 on average in 2020 and even $0 since week 31.
(Source: Container xChange)
Sea News Feature, October 26