KOTA KINABALU: Shipping fees from China to Kota Kinabalu has soared 20 to 30 percent owing to the shortage of empty containers in China.
The issue is caused by the delay in the return of these containers from Europe and United States back to China.
The shortage of refrigerated containers for fresh vegetables and fruits is even more severe, resulting in more than 50 percent increase in shipping fees.
Thomas Ng, managing director of NCT Forwarding and Shipping Sdn Bhd, a major industry player Sabah, said the prices of Chinese New Year goods this year were bound to rise due to the significant increase in shipping fees.
However, he said the extent of the price hike was difficult to gauge for the time being.
NCT Forwarding and Shipping Sdn Bhd has been established for more than 30 years and operated shipping routes all over the world.
Nevertheless, Ng assured that the shortage of containers in China was only temporary and he expected the situation to return to normal after the Lunar New Year.
Many importers in Sabah have stated that the shipping fees from China to Sabah have increased significantly, in addition to delay in shipments by up to four weeks.
Ng confirmed that the shipping fee from China to Sabah has increased by 20 to 30 percent while that of refrigerated containers has surged over 50 percent.
One of the reasons was the shortage of containers in China as the containers that had been shipped to Europe and United States did not return China on schedule, he explained.
“Generally, containers shipped from China to United States and Europe would return to their country of origin within 45 to 60 days, where they will be loaded and shipped out again.
“However, these containers that have been shipped to United States and Europe did not make it back on schedule, resulting in the shortage of containers in China.”
He continued to say that the shipping costs from China to Sabah have always been three times more expensive than the sea freight rates from China to Port Klang because the volume of shipment bound to Sabah was less.
Similarly, he said the shipping costs from West Malaysia to China was also three times cheaper compared to that from Sabah.
For instance, he said a container bound to China from Port Klang only cost USD50 at times, but a container shipped from Sabah to China cost USD300 to USD500.
“We are less favoured by major shipping companies because our volume is small.”
As comparison, Ng added that the container throughput for half a day in Port Klang was equivalent to a month’s worth of container throughput in Sabah.
Nonetheless, he believed that the issue of container availability in China was only temporary and would return to normal after the Chinese New Year.
“However, Chinese New Year goods in Sabah are expected to be more expensive this year due to the increase in shipping costs.”