Trade and Investment

Lost in transit: Major delays plague China-U.S. shipping

Freight containers are pictured docked at a port.

Container ship pile-ups at ports on both ends of the journey are significantly increasing the transit time and are adding to the global container shortage. Image: Unsplash/Andy Li

Katharina Buchholz
Data Journalist, Statista
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  • Goods shipped between China and the U.S. via container ship used to take just over 40 days.
  • However, hold-ups and delays in July, August and September meant this time increased to upwards of 70 days.
  • According to freight booking platform Freightos, container ship pile-ups at ports on both ends of the journey are significantly increasing the transit time and are adding to the global container shortage.

While before the coronavirus pandemic, goods shipped between China and the U.S. via container ship took just over 40 days, hold-ups and delays have extended that time to upwards of 70 days in July, August and September of 2021. The delays are much longer than those at the beginning of the global coronavirus pandemic in the spring of 2020, when transit time briefly spiked at 56 days.

According to freight booking platform Freightos, container ship pileups at ports on both ends of the journey are significantly increasing the transit time and are adding to the global container shortage that has seen shipping boxes pile up in the U.S. and Europe as the stream of wares coming out of Asia intensified again in 2021. The more permanent reopening that the U.S. has been experiencing at this point in the coronavirus pandemic has led to many retailers frantically restocking, with the upcoming holiday season already in mind. Power shortages, recent holidays taking place in China and finally Typhoon Kompasu pummeling the Southern Chinese coast have also not aided a streamlined shipping process either.

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In early October, Freightos said that shipping containers from Asia to the U.S. West Coast was now 330 percent pricier than it had been a year earlier. The cost of shipping goods from Asia to Northern Europe had even increased by 570 percent, but rates still remained slightly lower in absolute terms than for the Asia to California routes.

Lost in transit: Major delays plague China-U.S. shipping
According to freight booking platform Freightos, container ship pileups at ports on both ends of the journey are significantly increasing the transit time and are adding to the global container shortage. Image: Statista
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