As China became a factory for the world during the trade boom time during the 90s and 2000s, container ships supported the growth.
A colossal 52 million standard-sized 20ft containers, known as TEUs, carried cargo across global seas during that time. This figure was a staggering five times more than previously.
Standardised shipping containers played a significant role in the new retail explosion, both here in Australia and globally. However, with the onset of challenging world events, broken down trade deals and other financial crises, where will that leave the future of the shipping container?
With demand for more services and fewer goods, advances in technologies, and geopolitics, TEUs face challenges. Larger shipbuilding and automated ports contribute to market increases predicted by 2028. Repurposing for industrial, residential and commercial needs is becoming more popular.
Factors Affecting the Future of Shipping Containers
To understand the predicted future of standardised shipping containers, read on to discover some factors that may have an effect.
Lockdowns and border closures
Recent changes in the fabric of our society in Australia and the world have meant the shipping industry is in a challenging period.
With over-hiked freight prices, delays and congestion, the industry has recently been almost bought to its knees.
The economies of multiple nations have, in some cases, ground to a half, with the recent global pandemic virtually bringing the shipping industry to a standstill.
Every aspect of shipping has been affected, from regular shipping contracts to the price of TEUs.
The Australian shipping industry
Due to the unprecedented Chinese lockdowns, blank sailings became a problem in mid-2020.
As demand for shipping services plummeted from Asia to Australia, there were 435 blank sailings from the major shipping giants, according to Analysts.
Ninety of these were from Maersk during Q1 2022 and showed just over a 3% decline in the previous quarter.
Demand for services, not goods
An interesting fact to ponder is that you might think that as countries get richer, they buy more physical products.
These physical consumer products can be transported easily in the TEUs we see in large numbers regularly at ports in Australia and right across the globe.
But the reality is that as societies become more wealthy, their demand for services rather than goods increase.
So although rising incomes are good for trade, they may also mean that a requirement for goods gets replaced with services.
China is already at this point, with others likely to follow into what we would call ‘dematerialisation’.
The move away from ownership of large scale manufacturing goods, such as cars which historically provide container ships with cargo, is being replaced with services like Uber and the like.
With technology gearing up during the past couple of decades more than ever before, manufacturing has become miniaturised. Many products such as cameras, calculators and even torches are now available on smartphones.
This will have a more noticeable effect on the future of containers as there will be fewer goods to transport.
Newer technologies in 3D printing also affect the shipping and trade of raw materials.
With this industry on the rise and expected to reach a value of over 37 billion USD by 2026, it could be one factor that affects the future of standardised shipping containers.
The current geopolitical landscape is also likely to have a bearing on the future of container shipping.
With supply chains at the centre of trade talks and other policies in the past, with the developing global political landscape, it’s often pushed back on the agenda.
According to the above McKinsey report, this may cause a slow down in container cargo trade.
The Future of Standardised Shipping Containers
Although the future of container shipping may look uncertain, it's not all doom and gloom.
According to experts, the global marketplace for standardised shipping containers is currently expected to increase by 2028.
It’s also worth understanding that standardised containers are the backbone of the supply chain, and without them, it would likely struggle to exist.
So inevitably, the future of the standardised shipping container is linked to ebbs and flows in global product markets as a whole.
This just proves that although the future of containers used for cargo shipping might have challenges, the market is set to triple in size globally over the coming years.
Products such as clothing, medicines and electronics are generally shipped using containers. Although the future of cars as we know them is a changing landscape, they are significantly helping to push up the numbers of transported cargo in containers.
Also, with India becoming an upcoming global marketplace and with a continued developing infrastructure, it could see another one billion consumers added to the supply chain.
So although there are undoubtedly major challenges ahead for a shipping industry that’s been crippled in recent times by world events, there is evidence to support growth.
Container ships are getting bigger
As containers have been standardised into the TEUs we use in recent times, this has led to an increase in cargo ship size. As it stands to reason, the larger the ship, the more revenue for shipping companies.
In fact, over the last 20 years alone, the average size of a container ship has doubled.
With the average size of a container ship doubling in the previous few decades, more finance is needed to build bigger container ships.
With the recent launching of the largest container ship, Ever Ace, in July 2021, there’s no doubt many new builds to rival her will be in planning.
Automation at ports is likely to be increased by an injection of funds and the development of new procedures.
Many ports already have the technology to make standardised container shipping safer and more reliable.
This type of upgrade is likely to be a feature as it will need time to be implemented fully across the board.
According to recent reports, the transition is already in place as many industry leaders look to have automated ports within the next five years.
One of the main ways TEUs are earning their keep recently other than shipping is repurposing.
The current boom for containers being used for many different kinds of commercial, industrial and residential will play a part in the ongoing future of these sturdy cargo vessels.
As an uber-cool way of living or even as a pop-up bar or other retail ventures, their low-cost durability and overall flexibility have made repurposing containers a modern solution.
Head over to our other helpful article and discover the pros and cons of using containers for living here.
Their adaptability makes a used container perfect for many projects and is a growth area for these hard-working cargo units.
In A Nutshell
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We stock and sell the most extensive range of new and used general steel shipping containers. With a full range of container sizes from smaller 10ft through to larger 20ft and 40ft, click here for your no-obligation quote today.