- The rate of rolled cargo at transshipment ports increased in October to nearly 29%, up from almost 27% in September and more than 22% in October 2019, according to figures in an emailed release from Ocean Insights, a company that tracks containers.
- MSC's rollover ratio increased to nearly 23% in October from more than 16% in September, while Maersk's ratio rose to more than 35% in October from nearly 33% in September. Ocean Insights' figure measures the percentage of cargo that left a port on a different vessel than originally scheduled.
- The second-busiest port in the world, Port of Singapore, saw an increase in its ratio to more than 31% rolled cargo in October from more than 30% in September. But some areas did see improvement, including the busiest port in the world, Port of Shanghai, which had its ratio improve to less than 23% in October from almost 26% in September.
Demand for ocean cargo surged through October as ocean carriers added nearly as much capacity as possible. The swelling demand to move containers and the lack of additional capacity has resulted in a wave of rolled cargo.
This is a reality that Matson CEO Matt Cox described as "not a typical season," when an analyst asked this month if the carrier expected high October volume to continue.
"We're seeing significant congestion in Asia — this is not Matson, but cargo that wants to get on a ship that's being rolled. We're seeing the other international ocean carriers put in additional extra loaders," Cox said, noting that this is expected to be an extended peak season.
"This could end in a few weeks, and it could continue all the way into February in Lunar New Year," he said. "Nobody really knows exactly how and when this ends."
It's hard to know exactly why carriers end up rolling cargo, Ocean Insights Josh Brazil COO said in an emailed statement.
"However, it's evident that carriers have adjusted their services to favor the more lucrative import trade," Brazil said.
U.S. exporters have voiced frustration with this fact in recent weeks, saying ocean carriers are moving empty containers back to Asia rather than wait for agricultural exports.
With government regulators seemingly unable to rein in the power of the global shipping lines, it could seem that shippers don't have much power to avoid rolled cargo. But Brazil said increased visibility is a good first step.
"Obviously with the current state of global logistics, influencing carrier's priority decisions is not exactly an option even for the [Federal Maritime Commission]," Brazil said. "But if you have visibility on schedules, blank sailings and real-time container tracking, you’ll be able to navigate the landscape much better."