US & Global Economic Impact Analysis and Forecasts

Freedonia analysts and economists are sharing their insights on how major events are impacting different parts of the US and global economies.

Continuing Shortage of Shipping Containers Another Blow to Global Supply Chain

US consumers have been confronted with sharply rising prices for a wide range of products – most notably, groceries and gasoline – and in a number of cases, the cause is the “supply chain”. While something of a mystery to many, the supply chain is simply the processes needed to get goods to the stores where people shop. The supply chain includes:

  • trucks (and truckers) to carry items to and from manufacturing plants, warehouses, and retail stores
  • pallets to serve as stable platforms for boxes and other items during shipment
  • rail lines and train cars to carry cargo once it is unloaded from ships to distribution centers
  • ships to carry items made overseas to US harbors
  • shipping containers that transport bulk cargoes on ships to railheads

While there is currently a shortage of most of these items across the US, it is the lack of shipping containers that is currently most acute, causing delays in product shipments, shortages on the shelves, and prices of available goods to climb. This shortage of shipping containers has been caused by a number of factors, key among them:

  • a surplus of empty containers in many parts of the US, as there are not enough trucks and railcars to send them back to port facilities for overseas shipment
  • backups at US ports – many ships (loaded with containers) are unable to be unloaded and re-filled with shipping containers
  • shortages of workers at warehouses and lading docks to remove goods from containers at distribution facilities, which has reduced the turnaround of containers for shipment back to ports

Though shipping experts believe there is enough global capacity of shipping containers, there will continue to be a shortage of containers in the US until the many bottlenecks in domestic supply chains can be resolved. This, too, cannot be solved quickly enough, even as the US economy improves and workers return to their jobs – including those in the crucial logistics sector.

For more information and discussion of opportunities, see The Freedonia Group’s extensive collection of off-the-shelf research, particularly in the Construction and Building Products and Consumer Goods areas, as well as Freedonia Focus titles such as Freight by Waterway: United States, Freight Services: United States, Freight by Rail: United States, and Freight by Truck: United States. Freedonia Custom Research is also available for questions requiring tailored market intelligence.