Developed more than 50 years ago, sea containers have revolutionized the way cargo is transported and the ways in which countries and companies interact with each other (more information). One can talk about the containerisation of international freight, as today, sea containers move around 90% of global trade and are a huge business for carriers, freight forwarders, and shipping lines that are transporting global freight on the seas. Containers are tangible assets that, like everything else, does not last forever. But how long can the same container supply people with goods and what stages does the life cycle of a container entail?
Containers made in China
China is producing more than 90 percent of the sea containers in the world, which is definitely not a coincidence. Not only does the export-oriented country have cheap labour cost and are a large recycler of steel, it also plays an important strategic role in the life cycle of the shipping container aimed at maximizing the time in use. In most instances, new shipping sea containers manufactured in China are loaded and shipped to destinations like The United States or Europe for sale.
These containers are the so-called “one trip” containers that are sold when they arrive at their destinations. Sold as new containers, they only have minor flaws from the one-time use. This approach to container sales extends the lifecycle by ensuring that the container is put into use from the date of manufacturing and not shipped empty at a high transportation cost.
Here at xChange, we work towards avoiding the empty transport of containers, not just at the beginning of the life cycle, but through the entire life of the container. This is done through connecting partners that offers one-way containers, e.g. ex China to Europe easily. In the same manner as the one-trip idea, this is at the benefit of both partners and the environment. Once arrived at destination, the one-trip-old container is sold and put into use by the buyers, typically being carriers, NVOCCs, shipping lines or similar.
Multiple owners for one ocean container
The container rarely stays with its first buyer for its entire life, as resale often takes place multiple times. There are multiple reasons why carriers/liners decide to sell used containers, some of them being oversupply, demand for liquid assets or damage to the container making it unable to carry cargo. As long as the container is classified as cargo worthy, resales often take place multiple times primarily done on a business to business basis through network or contacts. Buyers can be other shipping lines, carriers, or wholesalers distributing them to private customers.
Different container conditions