THE container shipping market's demand growth this year and next is likely to outpace fleet growth, leading to slightly higher freight rates and profits for carriers, according to Drewry's latest annual Container Forecaster report.
However, the report was completed before escalation in trade hostility between the United States and China, American Shipper reported.
Worst- case scenario, up to one per cent of the world's loaded container traffic could be exposed to tariffs, according to Drewry.
'The bad news for carriers is that they are unlikely to see the very strong demand growth rates of early 2017 for the foreseeable future,' said Drewry's senior manager of container research, Simon Heaney. 'The good news is that while port handling growth may have peaked, they can still expect more than adequate volumes for at least the next two years.
'The top-heavy delivery schedule for 2018 with the majority of ULCVs (ultra large container vessels) being delivered in the first quarter has depressed our supply-demand index, but the balance will improve as the year progresses,' Mr Heaney explained.
'Unfortunately for carriers, this won't come soon enough to erase the negative sentiment for annual contracts, hence why we only anticipate a small uplift in average freight rates for the year.'
Drewry said changes to the containership orderbook, mainly in the form of delivery deferrals, have softened this year?s new capacity burden.
Mr Heaney added: 'A trade war is not yet inevitable, but given the lack of details, quantifying the risk to container shipping is very difficult. For example, much of the hi-tech goods considered liable to tariffs will be airfreighted rather than move on the water.'