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Container pickup charges increase in China

Pickup charges for container users are becoming more expensive across Chinese ports due to increasing container imbalances, according to the latest Container xChange report.

European and the US importers currently struggle to return empty containers to Asia, according to Container Availability Index data. As a result, these ports suffer from increasing dwell times and port congestion.

On the other hand, carriers in Chinese ports are setting new regulations to control the imbalances. The German container line Hapag-Lloyd, for example, will now only release empty containers from its mainland China depots for a maximum of eight days prior to the arrival of the sailing.

Average pickup charges for container users

StretchAverage of PU Charge (in US$)
Antwerp - Mundra56.5
Shanghai - Tacoma, WA61.4
Port Kelang - Karachi82.25
Port Kelang - Nhava Sheva91.08
Qingdao - Moscow241
Shanghai - Moscow243
Shanghai - Duisburg617
Shanghai - Waersaw735
Shanghai – Gothenburg739.5

For this table, Container xChange looked at the most used stretches on its platform in the last four years. The company noticed that the average price to pickup equipment varies between different locations and container types. On average, container users pay US$256 to pick up containers on the platform (if pickup charge > 0).

The top 10 stretches on xChange show that the average pickup charge for the stretches between Chinese and European ports have been more expensive than other ones over the last four years with around US$640 on average.

Precisely, Shanghai, China to Gothenburg, Sweden is the most expensive stretch as the users have to pay US$739 on average to pick up a container.

"Looking at the development of the last few weeks we can see record numbers for 40ft high cubes at US$1,050 per container in week 41 and US$1,250 in week 36. Comparing such record numbers to 2019 demonstrates the current equipment situation," said Container xChange in its announcement.

Another expensive stretch is Shanghai – Warsaw, Poland where container users pay US$735 on average, while data shows that this stretch has maintained a relatively high average over the years. It was US$870 on average in 2018, US$640 on average in 2019 and US$650 in 2020 – most likely due to Warsaw’s inland location.

Average pickup charges for Suppliers

StretchAverage of PU Charge (in US$)

Looking at charges paid by container suppliers, we can see that the most expensive stretches are ex-European ports to China, which is not surprising giving the container imbalance between the continents.

However, it is also interesting to see that the average rate of US$90 that suppliers pay to reposition equipment from Europe to China is much lower than, for example, what users are currently paying for the pickup units across China.

The most expensive stretch here is Rotterdam, the Netherlands to Qingdao, China, where the suppliers paid US$136 on average during the last 4 years on xChange to reposition their equipment to China. Pickup credits paid by container owners were usually at around US$120 per unit, dropping to US$0 – 25, since week 40, due to the current equipment situation.

Other locations where suppliers had to pay more pickup charges for repositioning units to China are Antwerp, Belgium – as well as Hamburg and Duisburg in Germany. From Antwerp, suppliers pay US$83 on average, 2019 it was US$76 dropping to US$59 in 2020. Pickup charges ex Duisburg were not different averaging US$76 since 2017 but dropping to US$38 on average in 2020 and even US$0 since week 31.

A pickup charge is a one time charge for each container that is picked up at the Point of Load (POL), Container xChange explains, while container owner and user negotiate the pickup charge for each deal. This charge can be paid by both the supplier or the user, depending on the market situation.

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