Will prolonged disruptions shift the pattern of trade?
A GIANT SHIP wedged across the Suez canal, record-breaking shipping rates, armadas of vessels waiting outside ports, covid-induced shutdowns: the business of container shipping has rarely been as dramatic as it has in 2021. The average cost of shipping a standard large container (a 40-foot-equivalent unit, or FEU) has surpassed $10,000, some four times higher than a year ago (see chart). The spot price for sending such a box from Shanghai to New York, which in 2019 would have been around $2,500, is now close to $15,000. Securing a late booking on the busiest route, from China to the west coast of America, could cost $20,000.