Global trade patterns distorted by the COVID-19 pandemic have thrown the intermodal shipping industry out of whack, creating massive imbalances in shipping containers, intermodal chassis and drayage drivers. That’s the assessment of an expert panel during the Intermodal Association of North America’s Intermodal Expo on Sept. 13. “The intermodal industry is under unprecedented strain,” said Larry Gross, founder and president of Gross Transportation Consulting. “A host of problems have ricocheted across the entire industry.” 

Virtually every segment, from shipping to rail to trucking, struggles to get capacity in the best locations and find enough drivers and staff to keep operations running smoothly, he said. “Part of the challenge that we face is the lopsided nature of development in the wake of COVID,” Vespucci Maritime CEO Lars Jensen said. Speaking by teleconference from Copenhagen, Denmark, Jensen said other nations aren’t matching the explosion in import volume to the U.S. Globally, trade volumes are only slightly above their pre-pandemic levels. That has caused shipping lines to relocate vessels to the Pacific shipping lanes and create a global imbalance.

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