Making way for new comers in ocean cargo arena

As we noted last year at this time, the poor handling of Hanjin Shipping's downfall left many shippers scrambling for alternative carriers when the industry was also being disrupted by new alliances and consortia.

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As we noted last year at this time, the poor handling of Hanjin Shipping's downfall left many shippers scrambling for alternative carriers when the industry was also being disrupted by new alliances and consortia. 

Maritime analysts for Xeneta – a global benchmarking and market intelligence platform based in Oslo, Norway – note that new alliances, structural change and positive economic trends have transformed the container shipping market over the past year.

Furthermore, this disruption is driving growth and pushing business performance figures from “deep red into black,” says Xeneta CEO, Patrik Berglund. He cautions, however, that carriers must continue to watch their spending.

“Long-term rates are in some cases up by triple digits year-on-year,” he says, and a recovery of the container shipping is well underway.”

He points to Maersk’s recent 2017 Q2 financial report indicating that higher freight rates propelled revenues upwards by 8.4% to almost $10 billion for the quarter. At the same time, Hapag-Lloyd may be on its way to triple its earnings this year.

Strong consumer demand, the restructuring of industry alliances – 90% of all container ship traffic is now accounted for by three major alliances (THE Alliance, OCEAN and 2M) – and Hanjin’s demise all help push up utilization and rates, Berglund adds.

“We remain optimistic with regards to the remainder of 2017, but the longer term becomes more complex, as more mega vessels come into deployment,” he says.

Berglund observes that a “staggering” 78 new mega ships are due to come online for the Asia-Europe trades over the next two years, pushing capacity up by over 23%.

“Mega-ships make obvious sense in terms of economy of scale and optimizing transport costs,” he says, “but when you have this much of a capacity injection it requires a huge demand increase. Where will that come from?” 

Analysts agree that mega-ships of 18,000 twenty-foot equivalent units (TEUs) must command utilization rates of at least 91% to achieve cost savings. Even in the high volume Asia-Europe trades that is difficult and may necessitate lower than average rates for some volume, which, inevitably, will hit overall rate development. 

“Each of the key alliance partners is playing catch-up with one another, trying to reap the mega-ship benefits,” says Berglund. “In doing so they’re going to flood the market with new capacity and risk reversing current positive trends. This is a potential mega-problem in waiting.” 

About the Author

Patrick Burnson, Executive Editor
Patrick Burnson is executive editor for Logistics Management and Supply Chain Management Review magazines and web sites. Patrick is a widely-published writer and editor who has spent most of his career covering international trade, global logistics, and supply chain management. He lives and works in San Francisco, providing readers with a Pacific Rim perspective on industry trends and forecasts. You can reach him directly at [email protected]

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