Shipping disruption – Is a price rise to the funeral industry inevitable?


The FFMA is currently gathering information from all its members in relation to the global shipping crisis and how it is affecting their businesses. The early feedback is indicating that the rising costs, that up until now have been absorbed by our members, can not continue to be absorbed and must be passed on.

But why is the shipping industry inflating their prices to such eye watering levels?

Before the pandemic, our members were paying $2,500 to $3,000 (£1,800 to £2,150) to bring a 40ft container from the far east. Now they are paying $16,000 per container with prices expected to rise to $20,000.

Space on a shipping vessel is also very limited and significant delays in shipping timetables has also left many of our members very low on stocks of imported coffins or materials used for coffin manufacturing.

The price rises have been triggered by a long-running period of intense disruption in the container shipping industry, initially instigated by the Covid outbreak.

A collapse in demand during the early stages of the pandemic was followed by a period of frenzied activity, as people who were forced to stay at home rather than travel or socialise ordered large quantities of consumer goods.

But this provoked a raft of problems, including acute congestion around deep sea ports and a shortage of containers for new consignments, because too many of them were sitting on quaysides around the world.

The Suez Canal blockage closed one of the world’s busiest shipping lanes for nearly a week. It created a traffic jam of hundreds of ships, making matters worse because it played havoc with schedules and exacerbated congestion at ports when the delayed vessels began arriving at ports.

Most recently, an outbreak of Covid 19 in China’s Guangdong province had a significant impact on the Yantian International Container Terminal, one of China’s busiest ports – triggering yet more hold-ups, and prompting warnings from experts that the knock-on effects could last for months.

Yet, while shipping lines have been struggling to navigate these choppy waters, and their customers have faced delays in receiving their shipments, or struggled to book space aboard vessels at all, their own earnings have not suffered.

Shipping companies have been pocketing all of this extra income and our members have continually had to foot the bill without passing on these price hikes to our funeral director customers. Whilst it is not our place to comment on the lack of competition between the shipping lines, this Is clearly having and impact on these prices.

Unfortunately, due to the increasing prices, and the uncertainty on how long these problems will continue (the industries best guess is until Christmas) many of our members have indicated they will now need to start passing on some of these prices, as they cannot continue to bear the burden of these price hikes alone. Our members would like to be clear that any increase in price, is purely to cover part of these increased cost and these do not represent additional profits for our members.

Via the Deceased Management Advisory Group, the FFMA will keep its fellow industry associations and the Government informed of these concerns and problems faced by the vast majority of our members.