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In a Tight Market for Empties, Shippers Go Shopping for Boxes - Online

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Published Jul 22, 2021 6:40 PM by The Maritime Executive

Thanks to the unprecedented boom in ocean freight, container availability is incredibly tight, and some shippers are turning to private brokers to get their own containers instead of relying on leased equipment. With the growing demand and the pandemic-era preference for remote transactions, the trade in used containers is transitioning from an old fashioned fax-and-phone business to an ecosystem of online marketplaces, which offer their customers the same convenience they're used to on Amazon or DoorDash.

European box trading platform Eveon Containers recently expanded from its home market in Europe to the U.S. East Coast. The firm announced Thursday that it is opening a physical container supply depot in Newark, and it plans to expand into other U.S. shipping hubs by the end of the year.

Like other online box trading platforms, Eveon's value proposition is simple. Traditional container dealers don't generally publish their prices, and the transaction is done on a written or verbal price-on-request model. Without price transparency, customers have to put in legwork and contact multiple vendors to find out if they're getting a fair deal. On the Eveon site, customers can locate a 20- or 40-foot box, see the price, and buy it with a click - without haggling over the phone. Customers can choose whether they want to collect the container themselves or use Eveon's delivery service (within a set distance of the depot).

"Eveon flips the traditionally murky and slow container procurement process with two things suppliers can’t currently offer customers: immediately low prices as well as a fast and transparent digital customer experience," says founder Aad Storm. "Companies [can] buy containers directly from our online shop and have them delivered without needing to waste time on a prior quote or inquiry. Everything is listed on the site for efficient transactions."

The idea has also been implemented by U.S. competitors like Shipped.com, ContainerDiscounts.com, BoxxPort, BoxHub and others - some with their own inventory, others acting as intermediaries for multiple box dealers. Eveon launched in Europe about one year ago, and Aad Storm says that the pandemic-driven container shortage has been both a challenge and an opportunity for launching a new box trading marketplace.

"The container supply was not only limited for us, but also for the customers. I am sure that many customers became curious about our advertising, our site and our offering," he said. "Not long ago, a customer - a buyer for a large corporation - said we were his last hope to find a container. I think the crisis has also made people more open to alternative offers and everything digital. That has played into our hands."