Abandoned shipping containers at ports can hold mystery prizes for opportunistic buyers, just like 'Storage Wars'

·3 min read
shipping container
Associated Press
  • Supply-chain snarls have led to an uptick in abandoned shipping containers in ports.

  • Shippers must decide how to get rid of the cargo without losing too much money.

  • Abandoned cargo represent an opportunity for cargo salvage buyers who collect the mystery goods.

Supply-chain snarls have caused a surplus of abandoned shipping containers — and created an opportunity for new buyers to cash in on its contents.

Abandoned cargo can be publicly auctioned off or sold directly to cargo salvage buyers. For these buyers, it's a mystery prize.

The director of JS Cargo & Freight Disposal, Jake Slinn, told Bloomberg it's a guessing game. A buyer is presented with a manifest, but they often don't truly know what's inside until they crack open the container. As a part of a two-man business based out of the UK, Slinn told the publication he's taken containers full of anything from aluminum take-out pans to electric scooters, breast implants, pumpkin seeds or six tons of cheese.

"It's like 'Storage Wars,'" Slinn told Bloomberg, referencing the American reality-TV show. "You crack the doors open and it's something completely different than we were expecting. So it's a challenge. You're thinking, 'Right, where can I send this? What can I do with this?'"

On his latest container reveal, the manifest simply said: "Household goods." What he found was a sedan stuffed with clothes and kitchen ware. Depending on the container's contents, cargo-salvage buyers like Slinn will either purchase the goods from the shipping company to resell them elsewhere or charge for its disposal.

The avenue for cargo-salvage buyers is on the upswing in recent months. Historic shipping delays have led to an uptick in abandonment at the ports.

At the two largest ports in the US, tens of thousands of shipping containers have been waiting at the port for over 9 days. In October, the Southern California ports reported that the amount of time unloaded shipping containers lingered in the locations hit a record, as carriers struggled to find space in overbooked warehouses.

Cargo dwell times in the ports represent a ticking clock for importers as demurrage fees for the containers continue to accumulate. For many, excess port fees and spoiled or delayed seasonal products mean the best option is to abandon the shipments. Containers are also considered abandoned if the freight company files for bankruptcy. The Federation of Freight Forwarders Association (FIATA) says cargo is identified as abandoned when it has remained at the port for anywhere from 20 to 90 days, depending on the location.

Shipping companies are ultimately left with the bill if importers don't pick up their goods. They can choose to donate, destroy or individually resell the products to a third party, but often an auction is the only way the company can avoid taking a significant loss.

Professional cargo salvage buyers aren't the only ones that can buy the cargo. Unclaimed freight auctions are open to any and all buyers and often occur purely online.

Read more about abandoned cargo on Bloomberg.

Have you ever bought unclaimed freight? Reach out to the reporter at gkay@insider.com

Read the original article on Business Insider

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