How to Work Around Container Shortages

Unless you’ve been asleep for the last year, you’ve probably noticed that the shipping industry has been hit pretty hard the last several months. From port congestion, to increased rates, to lower available capacity and everything in-between – it’s a lot to think about. And one more thing you can add to the list is a container shortage.

Asia and Europe have been hit especially hard by the container shortage, but the U.S. is absolutely feeling the impacts of it at large. If you’re wondering how to work around a container shortage, here are a few things to keep in mind:

Re-Think Cargo Routing

While the container shortage has affected all ports to some degree, certain ones are definitely under more pressure than others. For example, Long Beach/LA ports are congested beyond belief making cargo hard to move and containers hard to find.

Re-think your cargo routing practices to work around the container shortage. It’s a good idea to talk with your freight forwarder as they may have some insight into which ports have more container availability. If your current shipping practices require you to ship to ports on the East Coast, there should be plenty of alternative options, and the additional money that goes towards getting your cargo to a port a bit further away may well outweigh the detractors of waiting on container shortages and customer frustrations.

Talk to a Strategic Freight Forwarder

Many shippers tend to just think of their freight forwarders as an Ad Hoc service provider. They pay them to move their cargo and that’s what their forwarder does – moves their cargo from point A to point B. But this view of freight forwarders is rather shallow. The true value of a freight forwarder comes in the form of experience, knowledge, and network, and if you aren’t currently utilizing them to strategize during difficult seasons, you aren’t getting the most for your money.

Find a freight forwarder that you can strategize with. Despite the tough shipping circumstances, a great freight forwarder should be able to help you devise unique solutions to properly deal with and prepare for container shortages.

Plan Far in Advance

It truly is never too early to start planning a shipment, and the biggest thing you can do now is act on all logistical details that you know are in short supply – whether that’s port congestion, container availability, or something else.

Reach out to your freight forwarder regardless of how early it is and ask them what you can start doing to create plans that will adequately account for the container shortage. While containers may be in low supply, if you are working on a shipment months in advance you are at a far greater chance of getting access to one for the port you’d like to use.

Other Strategies

There are plenty of things you can do to work around container shortages, including rethinking your container consolidation and shipping methods such as LCL and FCL. However, all these solutions take tons of time and careful planning to ensure they are properly executed, and it’s in your best interest to find a strategic freight forwarder who is experienced in devising solutions related to these issues.

If you have any questions regarding container shortages and how to work around them, plan for them, and deal with them in current projects, please don’t hesitate to reach out to one of our team members! We’d be happy to help you and your team figure out how to navigate container shortages!


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