Large Retailers Chartering Cargo Ships to Expedite Imports

New York, NY, October 11, 2021-Global supply-chain delays are so severe that some of the biggest U.S. retailers have resorted to an extreme-and expensive-tactic to try to stock shelves this holiday season: They are chartering their own cargo ships to import goods, reports the Wall Street Journal.

“Port delays, Covid-19 outbreaks and worker shortages have snarled the flow of products between Asia and North America, threatening the supplies of everything from holiday decorations and toys to appliances and furniture. It is taking roughly 80 days to transport goods across the Pacific, or twice as long as before the pandemic, retail and shipping executives said.

Walmart Inc., Home Depot Inc., Costco Wholesale Corp. and Target Corp.-some of the biggest U.S. retailers by revenue-are among the companies that are paying for their own chartered ships as part of wider plans to mitigate the disruptions, a costly and unattainable option for most companies. Some of the chains are passing along these added costs by raising prices for shoppers.

The chartered ships are smaller than those that companies like Maersk operate and move just a small slice of total imports, the executives said. Ships that can hold around 1,000 containers are on average nearly twice as expensive as the cost of moving cargo on a typical 20,000-container vessel, according to freight forwarders.