Anxious European importers turn to trucks to get Chinese goods

Port congestion and shortage of shipping containers drive search for alternatives

JENS KASTNER, Contributing writerOctober 22, 2021 18:11 JST

HAMBURG, Germany — Shoe distributor Hamm Market Solutions had to be sure this year’s fall/winter collection would arrive in Germany from its supplier’s factory in southern China’s Guangdong Province in time — or face having to dispose of 84,000 pairs of casual footwear at a steep discount.

Werner Prigandt, the company’s logistics chief, knew it would be risky to move the shoes by sea, Hamm’s usual method, given widespread delays from congested ports and a shortage of shipping containers.

Some European importers had been turning to rail as an alternative, but Prigandt worried he might still have a hard time getting shipping containers for a train trip. Sending the shoes by air would simply be too pricey.

So in July, Hamm’s supplier loaded the shoes into 12 truck trailers. Eleven of the shipments arrived in time at the company’s headquarters in the northwest German town of Osnabruck, dusty but intact, allowing Hamm to distribute the footwear to stores last month.

„China-Europe trucks are independent of container availability as the load is carried loose or on pallets,“ Prigandt said. „Although one truck remains stuck at the China-Russian border near Manzhouli over a backlog caused by a local COVID-19 outbreak, we are quite satisfied with the situation.“

Trucking has emerged this year as a happy alternative for European importers desperate for options.


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