U.S. highlights China’s total control of container manufacturing

On March 30, U.S. Federal Maritime Commission Commissioner Carl W. Bentzel released his report “Assessment of the People’s Republic of China’s Control of Container and Intermodal Chassis Manufacturing”, noting the world’s over-reliance on China.

“This report is important in what it represents—that as a country our maritime equipment and industry is increasingly dependent on China.  The pandemic has illustrated how interdependent our supply chain and economy is with our global partners. We need to closely evaluate our partnerships,” said Bentzel.

In sum, the report three purposes.  First, to draw attention to market control in global container manufacturing; second, to create awareness of potential market manipulation that added to supply chain disruptions; and finally, to generate debate among policymakers about what the longer-term consequences are to the United States and other nations of relying completely on Chinese manufacturers as the source for containers and chassis. 

Commissioner Bentzel concluded the following:

  • The three largest Chinese manufacturers control over 86% of the world’s supply of intermodal chassis, and those same companies manufacture over 95% of containers in the world’s market, including U.S. domestic train and truck intermodal containers.
  • When demand for ocean containers increased, Chinese-based intermodal equipment manufacturers were notably slow in ramping up production, raising the question of whether this was part of a deliberate strategy to manipulate prices.
  • The Department of Commerce has determined that Chinese container and chassis manufacturers are state-owned and controlled and are the recipients of large government subsidies.
  • The level of control manifested by the PRC government and Chinese container manufacturers is mitigated by the interest of the PRC in supporting their exporters reach overseas markets, especially the United States. However, the mitigating interest in carriage of Chinese exports does not extend to other trade markets in Asia, or other overseas markets that compete with Chinese exports, nor does it ultimately diminish the potential level of market manipulation.

Photo credit: iStock/ bugphai

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