Red Sea vessel diversions and port congestion have consumed any surplus capacity that the industry had by the end of 2023, following intensified Houthi attacks. As a result, spot container rates have doubled since early May.

In Singapore, which houses the world's second-busiest port and serves as a key transfer hub for cargo between Asia and the West, delayed shipments surged by 44% in May compared to the previous year. By June 25th, delays were up 27% year-over-year, according to data from FourKites, a supply chain visibility platform.

FMC Delays Maersk and Hapag-Lloyd Alliance for Further Review FMC Delays Maersk and Hapag-Lloyd Alliance for Further Review

"The shortage of available empty shipping containers in key export markets remains a significant concern," said Mike DeAngelis, head of international ocean solutions at FourKites. "Containers are getting entangled in a global web of delays."

Adding to the bottlenecks is a demand reflex honed during the pandemic: the fear of missing out. Anticipated US tariffs on Chinese imports and a potential late-summer strike at East and Gulf coast ports are prompting earlier-than-usual orders.