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Open a "container blind box"

   At Pentalver's open-air warehouse near Felixstowe, the UK's largest container port, a mobile crane lifts its enormous boom like a scorpion's tail before reaching it towards a pile of colourful containers. The crane grabbed the top container, backed away with a "beep beep", and then placed the box on the asphalt with a "bang". A worker in an orange safety vest then knelt down, sawing through the steel bolts that sealed the box door, with screeching noises and flying sparks. The door opened and Jack Sling, 22, stepped forward and looked inside. He was a tall, lanky young man with a short stature and a pair of wide-rimmed black-rimmed glasses.

  Sling is a salvage buyer and his two-person company, JS Freight and Cargo Handling, helps shipping lines handle containers full of obsolete cargo. His industry is booming right now. Disruptions in global supply chains have left about 3 million containers stranded in ports around the world, said Nils Larsen, president of North American air and sea transportation at DSV, a global transportation and logistics company.

  Tom Enders, owner of Recycling Group Co., Ltd., headquartered in Michigan, USA, said: "If the goods do not arrive at the destination within the scheduled time, it tends to lose its original value." Once this happens, Some customers will refuse to receive the goods, and some customers will directly abandon the goods. In either case, “shipping companies can reach out to companies like ours to get as much of the benefit as possible,” Enders said.

  Stalled goods can cause a loss of value in many ways: food and other perishables can go bad, seasonal items like electric fans don’t reach wholesalers before the season changes, and machinery used for certain construction projects may not reach their destination on time . And even if the cargo is perfect in every way, it will become worthless if its owner fails to receive it before the storage fee exceeds the value of the cargo. "If you leave a container on the dock for six months, you never want to see a bill - storage fees are horrendous," said Paul Wild, managing director of Crown Recycling in the UK.

  Ocean freight rates have more than doubled since April last year, and with containers in short supply worldwide, shipping companies are rushing to get them back in order to get them back into circulation as soon as possible. But if the containers are full, the shipping company will have to wait. “No one in the supply chain makes money when the cargo is sitting idle,” Enders said. “We all make money by transporting the cargo.”

  That’s where salvage buyers come in. Depending on what's in the container, buyers will either buy the goods or dispose of them properly and charge a handling fee. "We're problem solvers," said Sling, who handled more than 200 containers last year. "We're dealing with shipping companies that want to solve problems. Those companies want to empty the containers and take them back."

  It's hard to say global residual value What is the total value of the item recycling business because it is too fragmented and most of the companies involved are private. Houston-based Salvex is one of about ten major recycling companies in the U.S., which claims $5.2 billion worth of merchandise for sale on its online marketplace, but not all of it comes from recycled shipping containers , because Salvex also helps stores clear inventory.

  Profitability depends on how skillfully the buyer resells what they acquire. When the goods are worthless or dangerous, the buyer gets a cut of the handling fee; when the goods are valuable, the buyer makes a profit on the resale. Every case is different, and it's a new test of buyer social connections, ingenuity and intuition. The container that Sling opened at Pentalver's open-air warehouse came with a list that read only "Commodities (automobiles)." But what does it mean? "It's like 'Warehouse Taobao Wars,'" said Sling, referring to an American reality TV show. "You know, sometimes when you pry open the door, you find that what's inside is completely different than what you expected. That's a challenge. You just think, 'Okay, where can I sell this? Can I use this? do what?'"


  When the goods are worthless or dangerous, the buyer gets a cut of the handling fee; when the goods are valuable, the buyer makes a profit on the resale.


Port of Felixstowe, UK. Disruptions in global supply chains have resulted in a large number of containers being stranded in ports around the world.


Inside the container was a Peugeot sedan.


  On that rainy afternoon, the twilight shone through the open container door, and Sling saw the answer. There was a Peugeot sedan about seven or eight years old, tied with a yellow woven belt. The car was full of clothes and daily necessities. Its owner appeared to be moving from Africa to the UK, but then disappeared. Sling believes that even without legal title or keys, the car will have some value. He's going to sell it to a dealer who specializes in this type of business, expecting to make a small profit from it.

  Since 90% of the world's goods are shipped by ship, almost anything can end up in the hands of buyers of salvage items. In his office in a nearby industrial park, Mr. Sling stocked up on samples of some of his recent shipments: boxes of aluminum take-out plates, labeled bags of rice, defective electric scooters. He also recently disposed of a problematic batch of breast fillers.

  Not long ago, he had just acquired a large batch of rotting pumpkin seeds and six tons of cheese. Sling believes he will find customers for his rice, which is packaged for retail sale and approved by the health department. Pumpkin seeds and cheese may be sent for anaerobic fermentation - which produces methane for use in power plants.

  The UK has far more residual value recycling than the US, because in addition to Covid-19, the UK has been hit by two other blows: Brexit and the blockage of the Suez Canal channel caused by the grounding of the "Changci" freighter last March. “We’ve never been busier,” says Wilder, who has been in the industry for 45 years. “We’re completely inundated with stranded cargo.”

  Still, as U.S. residual value buyers say, the West Atlantic market is catching up. . Ben Reynolds, director of abandoned cargo shipping at Salvex, said the number of abandoned cargo was on the rise and containers were arriving, but many would refuse to pay. He said the "nightmare" in Los Angeles, Long Beach and other ports won't end even after the Christmas rush, and the chaos will continue for at least six months.


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