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Container rates skyrocketing

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There is a lot of talk at the moment in the board game industry about a dramatic increase in the shipping cost to get games from China to Europe or the US. Based on this Asmodee UK has already changed their discount structure for their retail customers and one European distributor we use regularly has completely stopped importing games from the US. But I haven’t seen any detailed numbers to see how bad the freight rate spike really is.

So I did some research on Google and found this graphic:

Source: Drewry website

It shows the development of the World Container Index (a composite of 40-foot ocean container freight rates on 8 major routes to/from the US, Europe and Asia) since August 2019. The index at that time moved between 1000$ and 2000$ for a 40ft container. In the summer of 2020, the index slowly started to rise, but the rise really kicked off around Christmas and in July 2021 it reached 9000$ for a container. This is a 370% rise compared to August last year and explains the dire situation we are in and why the supply with new releases has nearly ground to a halt at the moment.

Some publishers holding their stock back in China in the hope that shipping will get cheaper in the autumn, but I’m not so sure about it. With most countries now out of lockdown or at least with a lot fewer restrictions in place, demand will pick up further. And Christmas is not far off, which will mean another big influx of stock. So I don’t think we will see an easing of the shipping problems before the new year. But this was the same expectation last year when the rates start to pick up and after a small recovery in February/March 2021 the rates climbed even higher.