Source: Theofanis, Rodrigue and Boile (2007).
Imbalances and Container Repositioning Strategies
Once unloaded, an empty container needs to be repositioned to a new location so it can be reused as a transport unit. It is very uncommon that the location where a container is unloaded is also the location where it will be reloaded, so repositioning is required. A important factor behind the scale and scope of repositioning are trade imbalances. With low imbalances repositioning is not considered a problem while with high imbalances repositioning is not economically feasible. In between, there is a whole range of scales at which a container can be repositioned, with increasing costs. For very long distance international repositioning, where several modal and intermodal movements are required it can even reach a point that it is cheaper to manufacture a new container than reposition another from a distant location.