Empty Cargo Containers Due to Trade Imbalance

With so many trade lanes throughout the world, there are bound to be some imbalances over the course of the year. As containers are feverishly moving cargo around from port to port, empty containers can be building up in certain areas which will require the steamship lines to figure out ways to get them back into the cycle without sacrificing space. The amount of empty containers in certain areas is becoming an increasing problem that is also increasing costs. So much so that some container ships are not only stuck repositioning them, but they are passing those costs on to their customers. In some cases the costs of repositioning have become more than the costs of leasing new containers so companies start adding these new containers to the piles of existing empties. This can cause a horrible backup of empties and further increasing costs for the shipping companies. In extreme cases, this could and has required steamship lines to shut down their incoming business to those ports until they are able to clear out some of the excess. This is actually happening in the Europe-Asia trade lane right now. Many shipping companies are struggling to reposition their empty containers and as a result they have added additional costs to the outbound container shipping costs. MSC for example, has decided to add an "equipment imbalance" surcharge as well as "no show" penalties according to the Journal of Commerce. Empty containers can be a burden for even the largest shipping companies when there is a trade imbalance. The best thing shipping lines can do is address the problem right away to avoid having to shut down trade lanes. Not only will this lower the overall costs in the long run, but it will also keep from creating further problems for their customers.