The cost of shipping a 40 foot container from Asia to northern Europe has increased from US$2,000 in November to more than $9,000.
'It's a bottleneck problem. These rates are being driven by customers fighting over a limited resource - containers,' said SeaIntelligence CEO Lars Jensen.
Thousands of empty containers were in the US and Europe during the first half of 2020 when shipping lines cancelled hundreds of sailings due to the Covid crisis.
However, when western demand for Asian-made goods rebounded in the second half of 2020, competition for available containers made freight rates soaring.
'We've gone from a tremendous drop-off to getting whipsawed into historically high cargo volumes and there's now more than terminals can efficiently handle,' said World Shipping Council (WSC) president John Butler.
Congestion is causing higher prices, with shipping lines charging extra fees to compensate for longer wait times.
Edge Worldwide executive Philip Edge declared some businesses were being charged $12,000 per container, up from $2,000 in October.
Meanwhile, the UK's Association of Manufacturers of Domestic Appliances stated its members reported an increase of shipping costs of up to 300 per cent since the start of 2020.
'Producers do not expect to be able to absorb these huge increases in freight costs,' said the association.