Container carriers are in for a rough ride in 2019 as trade slows: BIMCO
CHIEF shipping analyst at BIMCO Peter Sand expects the trade in containerised imports in the US to shrink this year amid an ongoing shift by shipping lines to US east coast ports thanks to the expansion of the Suez Canal to accommodate mega ships
CHIEF shipping analyst at BIMCO Peter Sand expects the trade in containerised imports in the US to shrink this year amid an ongoing shift by shipping lines to US east coast ports thanks to the expansion of the Suez Canal to accommodate mega ships.
'The long-haul main lane trades, which are critical for the overall health of the container shipping market, are in for what could become a tough year with several pitfalls,' Mr Sand said.
The first is 'trade tensions between the US on one side, and China and Europe on the other.' He notes that lower demand on long-haul routes from Asia to the US and from Asia to Europe are also likely to impact intra-Asia services.
'The shipping industry feels the impact of this trade war, especially in the dry bulk market,' he said. While there were high container volumes in the eastbound transpacific trade lane in the fourth quarter of 2018, 'this is unlikely to continue into 2019, given that companies have filled up their inventories and there is uncertainty over future tariffs.'
A second trend is what Mr Sand sees as 'a tendency for traditional consumers of containerised goods in the west to show signs of being 'saturated' ?at least in Europe it seems. If this tendency is here to stay, very real problems will prompt liners to rethink their strategy ?not just cause, yet another update of the network.'
Mr Sand noted the International Monetary Fund (IMF) is forecasting economic growth of 3.5 per cent in 2019 and 3.6 per cent in 2020, slower than the 3.7 per cent in 2018. He added: 'The slowdown will affect both advanced and emerging economies.'
Concerning container services to the US, Mr Sand said east coast ports 'are now fully equipped with cranes to cater for ultra large containerships. As a result, we saw strong import growth into the US via this route in 2017 (10 per cent) and again in 2018 (eight per cent).
More cargo is expected to follow this trend, away from the more crowded options of the US west coast. In spite of this, BIMCO forecasts overall imports into the US will be lower in 2019 when compared with last year.
He predicted: 'European containerised imports look likely to be stuck with demand growth of no more than two per cent for years to come. That means the long hauls into northern and southern Europe, where ultra large containerships are perfectly suited to reap the benefits of economies of scale, will suffer unless cascading is accelerated.'
Mr Sand said containerships on order for delivery in 2019 include: 19 ships with capacity of 19,000 TEU or more; 30 ships with capacity for 11,800 to 15,300 TEU; and 129 ships with a TEU capacity of less than 3,621 TEU.
He added that BIMCO expected a 20 per cent 'slippage rate,' meaning the delivery of the ships will be postponed until 2020.