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Some container vessels have been sailing from Asia to Europe under-utilised in recent weeks due to an acute shortage of empty boxes.

A carrier source told The Loadstar: “We have had to sail light a few times recently as there are just not enough boxes at depots [in China] to meet the demand.”

All carriers report severe shortages of the popular 40ft high-cubes (HCs) at their depots, and there has also been a run on 40ft standard boxes – even 20ft containers are sometimes showing as unavailable.

The latest container availability index report from Container xChange shows availability across China “still at a record low”.

It adds: “Due to the fast increase in demand after months of blank sailings, container availability for 40ft HCs across China is currently at just 0.05 CAx points, compared with 0.63 at the same time last year.” A reading above 0.5 indicates a surplus, below suggests a deficit.