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COVID-19 restrictions lift container resell prices at Chinese, Vietnamese ports


Equipment shortages at Yantian lifted container prices to $15,336 on average

Similar trend emerging at Ningbo after terminal was closed in August

Container resell prices at ports in East China and Vietnam could rise amid declining availability in the wake of COVID-19 lockdowns, following a trend set by Shenzhen's Yantian port in South China earlier this year, according to analysis by Container xChange published on Aug. 23.

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The average price of an empty container at Yantian including 40-foot and 20-foot equipment climbed to $15,336 per unit in August from $5,515 in June, according to the online platform for trading and leasing containers. Social distancing protocols put in place after Yantian port workers tested positive for COVID-19 in May curtailed operations to around 50% of capacity in June.

As ships were diverted from to other ports in South China such as Shekou and Nansha, Yantian faced a shortage of equipment that pushed resell prices higher. A similar trend was experienced at Vietnam's Ho Chi Minh City, where coronavirus-related restrictions raised the average price of a container to $4,875 in August from $2,872 in May, Container xChange said.

There is now a higher risk of equipment shortages at China's Ningbo port, the second-busiest container port in China and third busiest in the world, handling 16.07 million twenty-foot equivalent units in the first six months of 2021. Operations were halted at Ningbo's Meishan Island container terminal on Aug. 11 after a port worker tested positive for COVID-19 and are still in the process of resuming.

Container prices at Ningbo have already climbed to an average of $5,731 per box in August from $5,420 in June, making equipment at Ningbo more expensive than either Shanghai ($5,570) or Qingdao ($5,203), Container xChange said.

"Whether we see a further spike in container prices at Ningbo will probably be determined by how much cargo was disrupted at the port and whether we see additional shutdowns later this month," Container xChange CEO Johannes Schlingmeier said. ""Even if there are no additional closures it is likely that container prices will rise on lower availability in the coming weeks due to the lag between liner schedule disruption and container availability and pricing."

Higher price to buy or lease empty equipment have contributed to Platts Container Rate 5 – North Asia to East Coast North America – rising to $8,900/FEU on Aug. 23 from $3,900/FEU on the year-ago date.