Shop shelves could be empty come Christmas as shipping delays, costs balloon out of control

Shop shelves could be empty come Christmas time with shipping delays and costs ballooning out of control. 

With flights grounded due to COVID-19, shipping liners are making the most of the demand and charging five to six times their usual cost.

It may be too soon to crank out the carols and bring out the tinsel but the president of the Customs Brokers and Freight Forwarders Federation Chris Edwards says it could be time to get your Christmas shopping done.

"May not matter if you've been naughty or nice, you may not get anything at Christmas anyway depending on where it's coming from and how long it takes to be ready," he says.

Suppliers are facing such global shipping problems, you may as well try and book Santa's sleigh.

"One, finding space on vessels, that's really difficult in NZ, two the cost would be outside what people budgeted on and thirdly the delay in getting goods here," Edwards says.

The director of ZURU toys Nick Mowbray says the cost of shipping has increased dramatically since the start of the covid pandemic.

"We were paying anywhere from $2000 to $3000 a container and paying sometimes in the vicinity of $20,000-$25,000 a container now and it continues to go up," he told Newshub.

Now there's a second price tag added to the shipping - the first of the large shipping lines, ANL Singapore, has added a peak season surcharge -  a cool $300-$600 - on containers arriving in New Zealand from China.

Other shipping lines are expected to follow suit, profiting from the demand.

"They're reporting more profit in the first six months than in the last 10 years combined," Mowbray says.

Then there also are the delays. The problem is New Zealand is geographically at the bottom of the shipping food chain.

Hold-ups at other international ports have a flow-on effect, Ports of Auckland spokesperson Matt Ball says.

"There's actually no ships, no container ships in today and that's a reflection of disruption on the global supply chain than it is here in Auckland," he says.

The Ports of Auckland is also working on automating its systems to speed things up. That's set to be up and running by next June.

"Having another lockdown next year may throw a spanner in the works but for now we're on track," Ball says.

But the kinks in the supply chain will see empty shelves and bigger price tags on your presents.

The COVID-19 grinch, looking to steal Christmas yet again.