For the third year in a row, we conducted our “Mystery Shopping” survey to find if – and how – the SOC container is growing in use by freight forwarders. 

Since 2019, we’ve been sending out an annual SOC container request (under an alias) to the 50 biggest freight forwarders. Our results help us gain transparency in the field and study the trends of SOC container awareness and acceptance.​

Due to the COVID-19 hangover, 2021 proved to be another tumultuous year for the shipping industry. And yet, we still found some positive and interesting data for the SOC market.

SOC report 2021

SOC container and why it matters

As time goes on, freight forwarders realize how SOC containers can reduce three crucial problems:

1: There are freight rate savings when shipping to special destinations with equipment surplus, resulting in discounted freight rates and inland locations by saving on the return trucking.

2: SOCs are insurance against demurrage and detention costs as the user will not be subject to these fees – which can quickly add up and are often “hidden” at the time of booking.

3: When facing equipment scarcity in inland locations, SOC containers can increase the reliability of equipment supply, allowing you to control trucking and shipping with the carrier of your choice and lower trucking costs.

Watch our video to learn the difference between SOCs and COCs here:


Speaking of equipment shortages…

COVID-19 has introduced significant challenges for the entire supply chain. Specifically, equipment availability has become almost impossible to predict throughout the year. As a result, SOC containers become more relevant for freight forwarders to increase availability and maintain stable profit margins.

In order to:

  • fully understand the SOC usage by the world’s largest freight forwarders
  • analyze the impact COVID-19 has had on the SOC market over the past 2 years
  • and see how the numbers changed compared to last year

…we made contact under a fake name to gain transparency in the field.

This was our request:

SOC report 2021

The outcome?

This year, 9 freight forwarders (18%) accepted our request and were able to organize the SOC container move and source the containers without major restrictions. ​

​The top performers for 2021 were also different! ​

SOC report 2021

Want to see who the 2021 winners are? Click on the banner below to get the full report overview.

SOC report 2021

A few key results on SOC container usage:

This year, we compare our data over the last three years, which led to some noticeable – and interesting – trends.

To highlight a few:

Compared to 2019, 18% more of the freight forwarders responded, 200% more of the respondents accepted, and 50% less declined our request this year.

SOC report 2021

200% more knew what SOC containers are; out of all those who responded, 90% of them indicated their knowledge on the topic:

SOC report 2021

Last year, most of the respondents and acceptance rates concentrated in the top cohort. This year, the lower cohorts outperform the biggest freight forwarders.

SOC report 2021

In our report, we speculate various hypotheses for our results, in addition to the valuable insights put forward by industry experts Conway Group and Flexport. 

We also compare some of the SOC rates we received: Throughout 2021, the price of a SOC container was around US $2500-  US $6000. We asked our freight forwarders for their rates in December 2021 and found they were much higher than what we have on offer on xChange, and that it ranged heavily from quote to quote.

Get the full run-down of the SOC market in our report, including:

  • exactly who the winning freight forwarders are – and why
  • demurrage and detention charges explained
  • updates on median days spent in depot for major ports (a study by Container xChange and FraunhoferCML)
  • more key findings
  • insights of industry professionals
  • comparison of the actual SOC rates we received

Download our full report here

See how xChange can help streamline the SOC booking process. And read our 3rd edition now :point_down:

SOC report 2021


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