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.