Shipping Container Shortages & The Role of Visibility to Plan & Manage

Shipping Container Shortages & The Role of Visibility to Plan & Manage

Shortages. It's a word that shippers, BCOs, and freight forwarders have become all too familiar with in recent years. There have been equipment shortages with containers and chassis, and also shortages in laborers and drivers. Basically, everything required to get cargo from point A to point B has put supply chains in jeopardy.

While there's no way for organizations to control these shortages, there are steps that they can take to mitigate their impact on supply chain operations. With the ocean freight visibility provided by real-time container tracking solutions, shippers and forwarders can plan proactively and ensure that container and other equipment shortages don't upend their operations.

Why is There a Shipping Container Shortage?

When the COVID-19 pandemic brought the world economy to a near halt, most carriers found themselves with what they believed to be a surplus of containers. This eliminated any urgency for carriers to place orders for new containers.

As we now know, however, demand for transportation services rebounded much quicker than most shipping companies anticipated. Just a little over two years from the pandemic's start, demand for transportation providers is now at an all-time high, and the container manufacturing industry has yet to catch up.

Another issue causing container shortages is port congestion. Carriers need to be able to utilize every container at their disposal, but when those containers are stuck at port, they are temporarily taken out of the supply.

For these dual reasons, container shortages have become a real problem for organizations trying to secure capacity for their freight. To make matters worse, chassis and container shortages likewise create delays and disruption for many organizations.

Quick Ways to Keep Containers Moving Despite Shortages

The container shortage we are currently experiencing will not last forever. Container manufacturers will eventually catch up with demand. However, we cannot predict when that will occur, and ocean freight companies cannot afford to wait.

While there might not be a readily available solution for logistics companies to increase the number of containers on the market, there are solutions available for them to maximize available containers they have at their disposal.

One strategy for dealing with container shortages is to utilize containers beyond the 40-foot standard with the highest demand. Other types of containers, such as 20-foot containers, 45-foot containers, and non-operating reefers (NORs), are in less demand and are, therefore, often easier to secure.

Loading at larger ports where there is likely to be more equipment available is another effective way to mitigate the impact of shipping container shortages. Since empty containers typically arrive at larger ports before the smaller ones, the world's largest ports tend to have more containers available even though their volume is much higher. Likewise, partnering with larger carriers and premium ocean shipping companies that can guarantee equipment availability can also ensure that there are enough containers available for your cargo.

Shipping less-than-container load (LCL) is another option to consider if you struggle to find capacity for your freight. If you are not able to secure entire containers for your exclusive use, you may find it much easier to secure capacity by sharing container space with other shippers.

Perhaps the most effective way for organizations to ensure container availability is to keep the containers they do have available moving throughout the supply chain. We already discussed port congestion’s role in container shortages, but any shipping delay can put containers out of use and exacerbate the issue. With the proactive planning enabled by real-time container tracking, organizations can keep containers moving and maximize the available containers at their disposal.

The Role of Visibility to Manage Shipping Container & Other Equipment Shortages

Real-time container tracking solutions such as VIZION's API, empower end-to-end supply chain visibility, enabling organizations to plan ahead and prevent delays and inefficiencies that reduce container availability.

With the ability to track ocean freight’s real-time location and status, organizations can achieve a control tower view that can be used to efficiently manage supply chain operations so that containers are kept moving. For example, when companies know exactly when their cargo will arrive at port, they can arrange pickup well ahead of time to check equipment levels and ensure that containers are not left sitting at the port.

The supply chain visibility brought by real-time container tracking also enables organizations to manage by expectation and head off the issues that would otherwise create delays and reduce container availability. Issues such as rolled cargo and ports dropped from schedules can take containers out of action, and carriers are not always the best at communicating when these issues occur. With real-time container tracking, though, organizations can anticipate these issues and quickly respond to mitigate their impact. By eliminating the need for check calls, real-time container tracking also frees up supply chain managers to spend more time focusing on expanding their business verticals and less time figuring out where their cargo is located.

Lastly, improved supply chain visibility gives shippers, BCOs, and forwarders the insights needed to analyze which lanes, rates, and shipping methods are most advantageous to overcome equipment shortages and ensure availability.

With visibility provided by real-time container tracking solutions such as VIZION API, organizations can make smarter decisions about their container shipping, negotiate better rates, and ensure that container capacity is available when they need it.

Use Container Tracking to Stay Proactive with Equipment Shortages

VIZION's industry-leading container tracking API allows organizations to achieve end-to-end supply chain visibility that can be used to plan ahead and optimize the availability of shipping containers. To see how VIZION API can help eliminate the issues created by the container and other equipment shortages, be sure to book a VIZION demo today!

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