The Six Steps To A Global Shipping Catastrophe


  • pandemic strands shipping containers around the world
  • lack of passenger flights adds extra pressure
  • the 200,000-ton Ever Given ship got stuck
  • COVID-19 triggers eCommerce boom
  • add in a worker shortage
  • fed-up couriers and stevedores go on strike

Global shipping costs reach record highs and delays look unlikely to abate for some time. There are a few reasons for this, and they’re unlikely to resolve themselves anytime soon says an article on Yahoo Finance.

1. Pandemic strands shipping containers around the world

Shipping containers used to transport goods around the world are in extremely high demand, and prices are skyrocketing. As of 30 September, it costs US$10,360.87 for a standard 40ft shipping container. But the problem isn’t a lack of shipping containers only.

Shipping traffic

The problem is they’re just in the wrong place. COVID-19 is largely to blame. Most of the world’s shipping traffic occurs between the US and China, and Europe and China. This is leading to delays that are several weeks long in accessing containers and loading them onto vessels.

2. Lack of passenger flights adds extra pressure

The pandemic has also hit global air travel – hard. Using the hull of aircraft to store freight has historically been a relatively cheap way to transport goods. Without this artery, there’s even greater pressure on the shipping network.

Consumer air travel

And while the rest of the world is reopening, Australia is still at least weeks away from opening its international borders. “Global shipping lines are going to continue to be impacted until we see the resumption of consumer air travel,” Shippit founder Rob Hango-Zada told Yahoo Finance.

3. Big ship gets really, really stuck

To make matters worse, in March 2021, the 200,000-ton Ever Given ship got itself wedged in the Suez Canal for six days before it was eventually freed, in what Thacker termed a “debacle”.

Trade came to a ‘still’

Around 12 percent of the world’s trade passes through the Suez Canal, meaning queues of around 350 ships were seen waiting to get through the blocked canal, completely stalling the global shipping sector.

4. COVID-19 triggers eCommerce boom

COVID-19 has meant that work productivity in the ports across the world has declined because they’ve got security checks, COVID tests, social distancing, and are having to clean out cabins at the change of shift.

Online shopping 

At the same time, people stuck in lockdown across the world have taken up online shopping. According to Australia Post, it’s now delivering more than 10 million parcels across Australia a week.

5. Add in a worker shortage

There’s a lack of transport to get it from the ports to where it needs to be, once again due to the fact that COVID is affecting truck drivers. There’s not enough in the country to start with, and COVID has made it worse.

Essential workers

Truck drivers in late August warned they needed to be recognized as essential workers, claiming that confusing border pass rules and competing testing requirements have meant they have lost work and led to a backlog in deliveries.

6. Fed-up couriers and stevedores go on strike

Port and courier workers across Australia have been protesting pay and conditions. The Port of Fremantle already saw a 48-hour stoppage in September, while strike action was also planned for Sydney in the first weekend of October.

Delays of up to a week

The union claims that the employer, Patrick Stevedores, was moving to increase workforce casualization and failing to pass on higher wages to current employees. Patrick Stevedores forecasts delays of up to a week due to the strike action.

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