May 18, 2019

TOC LOGISTICS INTERNATIONAL INC. would like to provide the following ocean market update regarding European Export Congestion and Empty Container situation:

Summarizing previous market updates, the following conditions have caused severe congestion and container shortages over the past 6-8 months

  • Exploding volume of EU exports
  • Low capacity on current vessel strings between Europe and North America
  • Low water conditions on rivers/canals causing backup of containers throughout Europe and congesting alternative routes to the sea ports
  • 2018 Christmas/New Year holiday schedules with blank sailings

Continuing into 2019, the Chinese New Year schedule and lack of sailings between China and Europe has further reduced the availability of empty containers within Europe.  The normal flow would allow incoming loaded containers to be delivered and the empties to be positioned at the ports for export customers. Due to the reduced sailing schedules from Chinese New Year, fewer containers are arriving in Europe that can be turned and made available as empties.

Added to the above conditions that have already caused congestion that has not been resolved, as of this writing, there are no available empty containers at any of the sea ports in Northern Europe, except to VIP customers of the steamship lines. These must be recovered from inland CY’s wherever they are available at higher costs.

Fortunately, TOC Logistics is a VIP customer, but our empty containers are being made available to us at non-traditional locations. It is currently undetermined if the lack of available empties will soon affect VIP clients as well.

Vessels from Europe to North America are already over-booked and vessels are full all the way to the end of April.

Vessel on-time performance has been abysmal for months, and published schedules are not accurate. Vessel operators, rather than focusing on reducing congestion, are instead focused on getting their vessels back “on schedule.” Their decisions to focus on getting back on schedule means they are “sliding” delayed departures to the next “scheduled” departure, essentially causing a blank sailing and further exacerbating the congestion.

TOC Logistics strongly suggests that Buyers, Planners and Logistics personnel make all necessary preparations to review lead times, consider extending lead times, and prepare for a season of unplanned spend that extends beyond Easter 2019.


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