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Published: November 2004      

Tackling the empty container problem

The cost of moving empty containers around the world has reached an estimated total of at least US$5 bill/year. It is not unusual today for entire ships to be chartered to shift empties from surplus to demand locations.

To reimburse the cost of these empty returns, shipping companies impose heavy surcharges on loaded containers exported from industrialised countries, with the agreement of shipping conferences that represent operators in various locations in the world. These surcharges can vary from US$100 to US$1000 per TEU and form a noticeable proportion of freight rates on sea routes from the industrialised nations to many countries in Asia, Africa and the Caribbean. They result in increased cost of goods imported by developing countries - an additional burden the poorer peoples of the developing world can ill afford....


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