xChange Survey: Freight Forwarders turn to Shipper-owned containers to gain control of container supply amidst global shortage

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According to the annual ‘Mystery Shopping SOC report’ by Container xChange, for the third year in a row, the percentage of top 50 freight forwarders accepting SOC requests grew from 6% in 2019, 10% in 2020 to 18% in 2021, a three-fold growth in awareness and acceptance of Shipper-owned containers (shipping containers owned by the shippers). Though there is considerable improvement in demand for SOCs, the major forwarders are yet to fulfil the demand for the boxes on the route from China to Germany.

Florian Braun, Head of Ocean Freight, EMEA, Flexport says, “SOC increases reliability for empty container availability. The downside is that you need a dedicated team/person to manage these shipments.”

“Forwarders are increasingly positive about SOCs but are also uncertain of the success of processes around them. The rise in awareness for SOCs shows that industry participants are responding to the supply-chain pressures by diversifying their sourcing strategy. We’ve observed a growing year-on-year acceptance for SOCs as well as demand to improve the management costs and efforts. We believe the solution lies in digitizing the process to enable forwarders with a seamless, hassle-free opportunity of using SOCs,” said Christian Roeloffs, Founder and CEO, Container xChange

During the month of December 2021, Container xChange put to a test the world’s 50 largest freight forwarders to investigate how they respond to SOC requests. We reached out once again to ship industrial machinery parts from Shanghai to Hamburg using SOC containers. Here is what the report findings show –

  • 18% of the companies that were tested were able to organize the SOC move and source the containers without any restrictions. This figure of 18% compares to 10% of the companies in 2020, and 6% in 2019.
  • SOC acceptance and awareness has grown over the last three years. 90% of our respondents were clued up on the SOC market compared to 68% of respondents last year and 35% in 2019.
  • Hitachi Transport System was one of the most helpful freight forwarders, even offering us ‘reasonable’ pickup charges. While last year the winners were Kuehne+Nagel, CEVA Logistics, Hitachi Transport Systems, Nippon Express and Kerry Logistics – in 2021 it was GEFCO, Hitachi (again), Yusen Logistics, Landstar, Mainfreight, Kintetsu World Express, FedEX, BDP International and Millenium Cargo.
  • This year, the lower cohorts outperform the top 10. The top 10 were already saturated with business, especially leading up to the festive season. Evidently, SOC is becoming more and more possible for a range of freight forwarders.  (Cohort 1 = Rank 1 – 10, Cohort 2 = Rank 11 – 20 etc.)

One of the recent surveys by xChange in January 2022, which canvasses 500 freight industry respondents, also pointed towards one-fourth of the respondents considering making use of SOCs as one of their container sourcing strategies into the year 2022.

Container xChange is one of the world’s leading container leasing and trading marketplace. More than 800 companies such as Kuehne+Nagel, Seaco, Sarjak use xChange to gain market transparency, avoid demurrage & detention charges and increase operational flexibility.

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