Group of shipping containers at the port, perspective view
© Rpianoshow

China International Marine Containers (CIMC), the largest container manufacturer, said that container orders were up five-fold in Q1 24, to 494,400 teu, as the equipment shortage bites.

In contrast, reefer orders decreased by 23%, to 9,300 teu, a trend CIMC blamed on declining consumption of refrigerated goods caused by inflation. Sales of specialised containers fell by nearly half, to 35,000 units, due to lower demand for containers tailored to rail transport.

CIMC disclosed the surge in its order volume as Q1 24 revenue rose 22% year-on-year, to $4.5bn, but higher expenses resulted in net profit dropping 54% to $30.18m.

The state-controlled company said: “Although the global economy faced the challenge of a continued slowdown in growth, merchandise trade showed signs of steady recovery, and the growth of North American containerised imports accelerated. The increased uncertainty and supply chain risks arising from the protracted Red Sea crisis, customers are showing greater willingness to order containers.”

The substantial rebound in CIMC’s Q1 24 orders diverged sharply from the industry-wide situation in 2023, when container output plunged to a 10-year low of 2.31m teu of containers, as an economic slowdown and the evaporation of the Covid-fuelled boom hit container demand.

Separately, Chinese media reported that on 22 May, one of Singamas’ factories, Xiamen Pacific Container Manufacturing, churned out its 49th batch of containers this year. Representatives of Singamas, the fourth-largest container maker, said that batch comprised 300 containers. In the first four months of the year, Xiamen Pacific has exported approximately $23m of containers, an eight-fold increase from the same period in 2023.

Officials in Fujian province, where Xiamen is, have described a “blowout” in container export sales, estimating that from January to April, container export sales to Europe rose nearly nine-fold, to $26m.

Last month, Tommy Hsieh, GM at Taiwanese liner operator Wan Hai Lines, said that carriers are desperate for containers, and major box makers have their slots full till November.

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