As reported in The New York Times, US retailers are scrambling to find space on cargo ships for their imports, particularly from Asia. Retailers “are outbidding each other to score scarce cargo space on ships, paying two to three times last year’s freight rates — in some cases, the highest rates in five years.”
Despite these efforts, even those who are able to secure space are not receiving merchandise in time for seasonal promotions, and the problem is expected to worsen for shipments during peak season.
The problems stems in large part from 2009, when retailers slashed inventories due to low demand in a recessionary economy. In response, carriers greatly reduced the number of ships and pared back service, and container manufacturers virtually ceased production. Given current economic volatility, both are being exceedingly careful in increasing their service levels, leaving many retailers in a lurch.
The full article, “Retailers Pay More to Get Cargo (No Guarantee),” is available here.