A surprise rebound in international trade in the closing months of last year caught the world short of transport capacity and increased the costs of carrying cargo, and the situation may get worse with the Chinese New Year.

The demand to ship cargo recovered in the final part of 2020 and the momentum has continued, which is why the leasing of cargo ships increased. Meanwhile, the shipyards had stopped the production of boats, and there are not enough containers, explain the experts consulted by EL TIEMPO.

“Rates have increased and there are difficulties in obtaining containers. It is beginning to be felt, and the biggest concern is that the issue could worsen with the Chinese New Year now at the beginning of February because economic activity in China slows down,” warns Javier Díaz, president of the National Association of Foreign Trade (Analdex).

In Colombia, entrepreneurs have felt the impact since last year, with a bigger hit for small and medium-sized companies. According to SMEs that import raw materials and export their products, from August to October cargo rates had tripled, going from $1,650 to $4,900 per container.

For large companies, the increase was, for those months, between 20 and 30 percent. Due to the volume they move, these can buy space in advance and have standard rates.

Currently, standard container rates on transpacific routes have already quadrupled compared to a year ago, according to a report by the Bloomberg agency, without adding equipment surcharges and premiums for guaranteed cargo.

“Anyone paying freight bills in 2020 knows that the true cost of shipping is much higher than even the recently increased rates,” the vice president of international freight forwarder Flexport told Bloomberg.

The celebrations in China begin this Monday and go until February 12.

And while the activity in that country decreases, the general demand for cargo is expected to continue strong, following the pattern of the fourth quarter of last year, Lars O. Nielsen, director of Operations for the Maersk shipping company for the Americas, told EL TIEMPO

According to Nielsen, Asia drives demand and there is currently less capacity to move cargo from there to the rest of the world.

“There has been -he explains- an increase in the rental of ships driven by the historic high demand for consumer goods in the fourth quarter of last year and because, due to the pandemic and unforeseen demand, the capacity of shipping companies to navigate as planned has been affected.”

It adds that schedule reliability — the ability to set sail and call back as planned within a day — has been reduced by 50 percent, “meaning that only half of global ocean voyages are being delivered.” on time”.

Regarding these delays, Colombian businessmen warn that it is more and more frequent that ships, when their itinerary is delayed, skip the approach in Colombia, and leave the unloading of shipments in the country until last.

The situation is compounded by the fact that non-oceanic businesses are also having trouble finding trucks for intermodal transportation, especially in North America, says Nielsen. There, the warehouses are full and it is very difficult to find vehicles to move cargo. “The entire supply chain is clogged,” he says.

Nielsen. There, the warehouses are full and it is very difficult to find vehicles to move cargo. “The entire supply chain is clogged,” he says.

Díaz, for his part, points out that the passage of a container from the east coast of the United States to the west coast has gone from 2,000 dollars to 13,000. “It’s absurd,” he concludes.

In turn, Nielsen comments that “some ships are having to wait outside the ports, so we have had to add more ships to meet the demand for weekly services. We do not have overcapacity at the moment, what we have is insufficient capacity.”

The shipping company manager adds that the shipyards reduced their production because no one was ordering new ships. Therefore, it could be facing a phenomenon of change in the balance regarding the demand for capacity, with very different projections for this and next year.