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Taiwan urges shippers not to jack up prices amid container shortage

TAIPEI: Taiwan’s government has urged shipping companies not to unfairly push up their prices amid a global squeeze on shipping containers and a shortage of space on cargo ships, the transport ministry said on Friday.

Trade-dependent Taiwan, a tech powerhouse, has benefited from demand for telecommuting products like tablet computers amid the Covid-19 pandemic, which has forced millions to work and study from home.

The finance ministry said last week it saw 2020 exports hitting a record high.

The transport ministry’s Maritime and Port Bureau said the shipping container shortage was most severe on US routes, and that it had met Taiwanese shipping companies on Dec 1 to discuss the problem and ensure trade can flow.

While noting that freight rates were a commercial decision that follow market principles, shippers should not be trying to gouge customers, the bureau added.

“In order to avoid unscrupulous operators taking the opportunity to drive up prices, the Maritime and Port Bureau has urged shipping companies to respond reasonably according to market supply and demand,” it said.

“Freight rates should not be increased opportunistically.”

Responding to feedback from some exporters that they were unable to get shipping containers on time, the port bureau said it would act as a middleman between companies and shippers to help “smooth exports”.

It said it had also urged shipping firms to add capacity using new or leased ships and make sure shipping containers were used efficiently to ensure they are not sitting around empty.

In China, Taiwan’s largest trading partner, its economic rebound from the coronavirus pandemic is also being blunted by the global shortage of containers, sending cargo costs to record highs and hampering manufacturers in filling fast-recovering global goods orders.

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