Amazon using ships intended for timber to transport goods

·2 min read
The Star Lygra open-hatch vessel, which usually carries forest products, steel pipes, project loads and dry bulk, unloading Amazon containers at the Port of Houston in Texas
The Star Lygra open-hatch vessel, which usually carries forest products, steel pipes, project loads and dry bulk, unloading Amazon containers at the Port of Houston in Texas

Amazon and Coca-Cola have resorted to using ships designed to carry timber or steel pipes to cope with a shortage of container shipping capacity during the worldwide supply chain crisis.

The online retail giant recently shipped its own containers of merchandise from Shenzhen in China to Houston, Texas, on the Star Lygra, a 50,000-ton “open-hatch” vessel.

Amazon would normally use container ships, but the shortages have forced it to use vessels designed to carry a variety of other cargoes.

“The Star Lygra and other ships of its class usually carry cargoes such as ­forest products, steel pipes, ‘big bags’ [large sacks for dry, granulated products], project loads [cargo that won’t fit in containers] and dry bulk [commodities such as ore or coal],” according to the Alphaliner newsletter for the shipping industry.

Meanwhile, Coca-Cola has shipped 60,000 tons of concentrate power in bags loaded on three bulk cargo vessels, Alphaliner reported. Normally the bags of powder would be loaded into containers and carried on container ships. “Forced by the shortage of container capacity, Coca-Cola has literally started to think outside the box.”

The Star Lygra open-hatch vessel, which usually carries forest products, steel pipes, project loads and dry bulk, unloading Amazon containers at the Port of Houston in Texas
The Star Lygra open-hatch vessel, which usually carries forest products, steel pipes, project loads and dry bulk, unloading Amazon containers at the Port of Houston in Texas

Amazon and Coca-Cola’s use of unconventional means to ship goods followed the example of Walmart, America’s biggest retailer, which had shipped its own containers on a vessel similar to the Star Lygra, Alphaliner said. In Britain Tesco has used container trains to get around the shortage of lorry drivers.

Other multinationals have been affected by the supply chain constraints. Apple will make 4pc less revenue from iPhones in the first quarter of its next financial year as a result of chip shortages and factory closures in Asia, according to analysts at JP Morgan.

The strains in global supply chains have led to long delays at sea, with some shipping lines attempting to maintain their normal schedules by abandoning calls at certain ports.