THAT GLUT of empty containers - a result of the rush of imports last year - finally started to disappear towards the end of April, according to Ian Munro, g.m. of the Grindrod Group's container depot network, Containerlink.
There has been a shortage of empty boxes these last two months, he said, although the increasing number of FCLs (full container loads) coming in and going out should mean more empties building up again from now.
The fact that the container terminal at Durban harbour now has warning signs of 72-96 hours delay posted means higher volumes can be expected. Mahomed Hoosen, depot manager of the Cargo Management Centre (CMC) depot in Durban, agrees with the first part - but is pessimistic in the second sense.
A growing trend has been for the Far East and Europe to have run short of empty boxes, he said. All those that had been left here have been redeployed by the shipping lines over the last six weeks or so, and container leasing companies have also been repositioning their boxes.
There have been lots of containers travelling to the Far East, for example, loaded with bricks - a very low rate cargo. This, Hoosen added, was lines and lessors trying to get something out of nothing as this repositioning exercise took place.
I don't expect any more glut, he said, even over Christmas. While Munro expects more empties to become available in SA again, he also sees that they will be much finer spread than before.
The reaction to last year's glut was a number of shipping lines, for example, opening their own parks, he said. There are now eight, all told, in Durban. This means that the outside parks will probably find a continuing shortage. Hoosen also sees storage capacity now far exceeding demand.
The overall demand has dropped by about 40% over the last month-to-six weeks, he said. I see that as about 40%-50% of the capacity in the whole industry being used. As CMC g.m. Paul Wolvaardt put it: It's definitely a bit of a yo-yo.