Dealing with boats carrying tons of cargo across an unpredictable ocean is always an adventure. Sometimes, it’s more of an adventure than one would bargain for. The year 2016 turned out to be one of the wildest in container shipping history. The woes of the container shipping industry have provided a lot of work for maritime accident lawyers, but have left us with a lot of uncertainty about the future of the industry. Listed below are some of the biggest challenges facing container shipping, as seen from the perspective of us here at Schechter, Shaffer & Harris, L.L.P., Accident & Injury Lawyers:

Labor Relations Hit Choppy Waters

Container shipping is a tough industry to work in, and employees are starting to push back against their working conditions. Maritime personal injury is a real problem, and offshore injury lawyers are working hard to represent those who have been injured on the job. These dangerous working conditions are something the industry will have to address even though the answer to the problem may not be so simple.

U.S. Infrastructure Makes the Future of Shipping a Challenge

In order to handle the demands of rising transportation costs, the container shipping industry is turning to larger boats that can carry more cargo per trip. The problem is that the ports in the United States are not built to handle such large ships. Crumbling, outdated infrastructure presents a real challenge for the industry and has forced port workers to test new approaches to terminal operations — approaches that don’t always lead to positive results.

More Consolidation to Come

2016 saw a lot of consolidation for the container shipping industry, but it may just be the start of things to come. By the time it’s all said and done, the industry is expected to report between $5 billion and $10 billion worth of losses — an unsustainable number that is almost guaranteed to lead to more bankruptcies and consolidations.

Terminals and Ports Begin to Cooperate

Shipping lines had a lot of success driving down costs and improving efficiency by working together, and terminals and ports across the country have taken notice. In an effort to adjust to the rapidly changing industry, terminals and ports that were once rivals have begun to cooperate, and the coming years are going to need even more cooperation to survive future challenges.

The Industry Faces a Pricing Conundrum

In the past nine years, the global container shipping industry has seen an unsettling decline in volume, yet there have been little to no cuts in the number of vessels in the water to make up for this volume decrease. This is the formula for a shaky pricing conundrum that has left companies searching for answers in 2017.

In 2016, fleet growth managed to come in under demand growth for the first time since 2010, yet the chances of the industry repeating that feat in 2017 are looking pretty slim. It’s a problem industry leaders are going to have to figure out, though, if they are going to solve the current supply-demand imbalance.


2016 was a wild and rocky year for ocean container shipping, and whether 2017 will be any better is something yet to be seen. If you work in or with companies in this industry, having a maritime accident lawyer on call is a good idea given the rapid changes and current uncertainty. If you would like to speak with a maritime injury attorney or would like to learn more about us and the services we offer, feel free to contact us today at 713-364-0723.