A monster container ship is collecting . . . empties?

One of the biggest container ships in the world, the MSC Anna, recently visited California.  Here’s a video report about her arrival.

What I found most interesting was the comment that she’d come to collect empty containers, and take them back to China.  This is a vitally important part of re-establishing international trade.  With the shutdown across the globe, containers that were en route to their destinations were delivered – and then just sat there, with no way to get them back to the factories that sent them.  Without those containers, the factories couldn’t pack goods for export, even if they got their production lines running again.  There was basically a complete, almost unbridgeable disconnect between producer and consumer, particularly when most container shipping shut down.

It’s encouraging to see so large a ship filled with thousands upon thousands of empty containers.  May they soon be filled again!

(The ship itself is an absolute monster, posing all sorts of challenges to pilots and port staff.  You can read about that in this article.  I found it very interesting.)



  1. Of course we want them coming back from China! Wouldn't want to have nasty dirty manufacturing going on here, would we?
    Also, carbon emissions in China don't cause global warming here. Well-known factoid.
    … Besides which, the containers might not come back here filled with TV sets; they might be used to deliver highly questionable, but photogenic, medical supplies to Africa.

  2. send thbem back "no deposit, no return" let them keep the containers and we will find other sources for the contents.

  3. Containers can easily hold $100,000 worth of merchandise, and the container itself only costs a couple of grand. They have been piling up in West Coast ports for years and no one knows what to do with them. Trade with China must have really fallen off to make it worthwhile to ship empties back to China.

  4. Deadheading has always been part of the deal. Generally, you only see container ships deadheading at or after the last (terminal) discharge port in the west before heading east, and this varies from company to company depending on their main liner routes. In the eastern US, it was often Norfolk VA, although this is shifting now. Generally, companies want to carry cargo, not empties, but it isn't unusual in the US to see ships leave their last north American port cubed out (maxed out on cargo volume) but light at the load line because of the preponderance of empties. I see Maersk ships leaving NJ full but light fairly often as they head for the EU or China. Being damn near 100% deadhead says more about the manufacturing situation in the west than it does in China.

  5. with oil prices low the cost to transport empty containers vs build new at manufacturing end might now balance in favor of transport back where in the past was in favor on manufacture new.

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *