Out of stock, but not out of sight

MarineTraffc platform can keep track of the containers carrying in-demand products such as Sony’s PS5

By Fotini Tseroni

June 1, 2022

In transit blog_containers_PS5

Containership Amo makes headway on the first direct service between Bangladesh and Europe

When the gaming giant Sony launched its new console, PlayStation 5 (PS5) in November 2020, it came with the tagline - ‘Play has no limits’. 

Its marketing campaign worked, and keen gamers dashed out to buy the approximately USD500 kit. But whilst the immersive experience offered by the console may have ‘no limits’, for many gamers the kit proved to be ‘off limits’ as consumer demand soon outstripped supply. 

And as reviews of the technology proved positive, so did the appetite for the next big thing in computer gaming.

According to NME magazine, the PS5 is now the fastest selling games console ever, and in February of this year, wrote that the Japanese company had already sold 17.3 million of the ‘fast-loading’ consoles, despite the challenges experience by many of getting hold of one.

18 months after the PS5’s launch and they are still in short supply. Technology publication Techradar cites a number of reasons, including the pandemic and new ‘working from home’ culture, which enables people to spend more time on their sofas watching TV and playing video games. This, along with a shortage of graphics processing units that are in demand by cryptominers and console creators alike - not only for Sony’s products but also Microsoft’s Xbox, amongst others.

What cannot be overlooked, however, is the likely impact of congestion at both ends of a significant part of PS5’s logistics chain that has disrupted trade flows over the past 12 months.

Pacific crossing

Many, if not most, PS5’s are made at one of 12 China-based Foxconn factories. The Taiwanese-owned, multi-billion dollar company makes electrical consumer items for a number of household names including Apple, Amazon and Google at factories in East Asia, Brazil, India and Mexico. China, however, is its single biggest manufacturing base.

These finished products will make their way to western consumers on containerships, with North America a key destination. Many PS5 units built in Chinese factories cross the North Pacific Ocean from ports such as Shanghai, Ningbo and Shenzhen to the US westcoast ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach.

The Transpacific crossing is a popular route for containerships moving finished goods from Asia to the Americas

Related: Shining the spotlight on shipping’s busiest routes

Both of these port regions have been plagued with congestion in recent months. Shanghai has been hemmed in by China’s strict Covid-19 lockdown policies, resulting in logistics challenges and congestion at its ports.

Recent view of containerships off of Shanghai and Ningbo

Whilst on the opposite side of the Pacific Ocean, North America’s largest ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach were until around March this year, under strain from a deluge of inbound containers. Upheaval created by the pandemic resulted in irregular cargo flows and increased waiting times for ships at anchor at these two San Pedro Bay ports.

Keen gamers will be pleased to learn that on the Americas’ side at least, the worst of the congestion appears to be over. The Loadstar reported in late March that the “Average vessel waiting times for berth and labour have improved significantly at the San Pedro Bay ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach in the past few weeks, halving the number of queueing ships to below 50”.

Congestion at San Pedro Bay ports has eased in recent months

The great global supply chains have been stretched by the pandemic and its aftermath, and these events have shed light on the vulnerabilities of the containerised goods supply on which we all depend to live our lives - be it food in our fridge, clothes in our closets or the latest in gaming tech in our front rooms.

It’s no surprise that the manufacturers of these products have sought out ways to track where in the world their containerised goods are once they leave port, so that they can work with distributors and stores to ensure their products get to market. 

MarineTraffic has taken container tracking one step further. 

The Visibility for Containers solution fuses the track and trace data of over 130 major carriers with planned vessels schedules. It then adds its AIS ship position data to give real-time information on the whereabouts of a container whilst at sea, including transshipment and predictive vessel departure and arrival times. In this way, it can incorporate data relating to a number of changeable scenarios, including course or speed due to adverse weather conditions or port delays.

By leveraging the AIS data obtained through its global AIS network, Visibility for Containers offers real-time information relating to current status of the shipment, and identifies delivery delays early on. 

Related read: Real-time online container tracking with MarineTraffic

With the MarineTraffic system a shipper or beneficial cargo owner (BCO) could have a better indication on when the next batch of PS5’s will be hitting the shelves. Many companies are already making use of Visibility for Containers to manage their inventory levels and warehouse supplies and managed to decrease demurrage and increase efficiency.

Toll Group managing director Thomas Knudsen told Seatrade Maritime News in April that customers, such as the BCOs, should plan for disruption to supply chains for at least another 12 months, citing the ongoing challenges in China, along with potential labour disputes in the US, and a lack of new container tonnage coming online.

Whilst avid gamers may need to realign their PS5 aspirations until next year, it’s good to know that there is complete visibility available in the supply chain designed to bring them to the consumer.

Sony tells its customers that with a PS5, “Your journey begins here”. But the journey really begins in an east China port.

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Fotini Tseroni

Fotini Tseroni

Content Writer at MarineTraffic

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