A backlog of shipping containers in the Port of Los Angeles (Image: Ted Soqui/Sipa USA)

If your end-of-year celebrations traditionally involve French Champagne, Chinese toys or Korean electronics, look out. Global shipping is trapped in a worsening spiral of delays and capacity shortfalls that could leave consumers hunting desperately for local alternatives to their favoured imported goods.

Welcome to the inaugural instalment of Crikey’s Shipping News, where reports are grim and the forecast is dire. When the Suez Canal was blocked by the container ship Ever Given in March 2021, that was apparently just a foreshock. The full seismic effect of global disruption on the movement of goods around the globe is only now being felt.

To see the simplest version of the story, let’s look at the price of containerised trade. Sending a 40-foot (13-metre) shipping container around the world used to be pretty cheap: about $1910. Now the price is about 7.5 times higher: about $14,160. That’s an enormous increment when you consider that choices about whether to trade overseas can be based on margins of just a few per cent.