Container trade rose 6.6% in 2021

Over the past 30 years, container trade has grown faster than overall world economic growth.

According to Clarkson Research Studies, the volume of containerized cargo worldwide increased at a compound annual growth rate of 7.7% between 1991 and 2021.

In this regard, Triton, the world’s largest intermodal container lessor, believes this historically high growth was due to several factors, including the shift in global manufacturing capacity, lower labor cost areas such as China, the continued integration of high-growth developing economies in global trade patterns and the continued conversion of bulk shipping cargo to containers.

However, containerized cargo volume growth worldwide has been more in line with global economic growth over the last 10 years, averaging 4.2% per year between 2011 and 2021.


In 2021, cargo volumes worldwide are estimated to have increased by 6.6% in line with global economic growth.

Globally, container leasing companies maintain inventories of new and used containers in a wide range of locations and supply these containers primarily to shipping line customers under a variety of short-term and long-term lease structures.

Based on container fleet information reported by Drewry Maritime Research, Triton estimates that container lessors held approximately 24.7 million TEUs, or approximately 52% of the total world container fleet of 48.0 million TEUs, at the end of 2021.

Please note: Container leasing helps shipping lines improve the efficiency of their container fleet and provides shipping lines with an alternative source of equipment financing.

Given the uncertainty and variability of export volumes, and the fact that shipping lines have difficulty accurately forecasting their container needs on a day-to-day, port-by-port basis, the availability of containers for short-term lease reduces the needs of shipping lines.

In addition, the delivery flexibility provided by operating leases also allows shipping lines to adjust the size of their container fleets and the mix of container types in their fleets, both seasonally and over time, and helps balance their trade flows.


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