Global Jan-July box volumes rise 1.2pc with extra 1m+ TEU due by 2022

GLOBAL container volumes increased by 1

23 September 2019 - 19:00
GLOBAL container volumes increased by 1.2 per cent in the first seven months of the year, up from 0.8 per cent in the first quarter, after growth ticked up slightly in the second quarter.

However, the growth rate was significantly lower than the rise of 4.4 per cent recorded between January and July 2018.

This year's low growth figure masks large differences in developments on trades worldwide. In particular, the five per cent increase in exports from the Far East into Europe stands out, reported Maritime Logistics Professional.

In spite of the growth, spot freight rates on the trade between the Far East and Europe have continued to decline. On August 30 spot rates were down 24 per cent from the start of the year and 18.8 per cent compared to the same week last year.

Also experiencing high volume growth is the US east coast, which year after year continues achieving high volume growth. According to BIMCO's data, growth in the first half of the year reached 7.2 per cent, compared with the 7.4 per cent in the first six months of 2018.

Despite this, spot rates continue to drop and are 22.7 per cent lower year on year, so that it costs US$2,691 per FEU on August 30 to ship a container from Shanghai to the US east coast. Taking into account more ports and other contract types, the China Containerised Freight Index (CCFI) decreased less dramatically, down 4.8 per cent from the same time in August 2018.

In contrast, other major container trades have experienced more sluggish growth. The US-China trade war is certainly impacting the Far East to North America route, where volumes have fallen by 0.4 per cent in the first seven months of the year. Similarly, laden container imports into the US west coast in the first seven months of 2019 were down 1.5 per cent, BIMCO's data shows.

Since the start of the year the containership fleet has expanded by 2.6 per cent, a number which BIMCO predicts will rise to 3.5 per cent by year-end. Deliveries include four ships larger than the previous record holding vessel, the first with a capacity of 22,000 TEU which was followed hot on the heels by the delivery of two 23,756 TEU vessels and one 23,656 TEU ship.

Of the 165 ultra large containerships (14,500+ TEU) that are active and have a combined capacity of 22.6 million TEU, only eight are over 10 years old, whereas 78 have been sailing for two years or less.

There are currently 71 ULCSs on order, amounting to additional capacity of 1.3 million TEU with all but four scheduled for delivery between now and the end of 2021. The remaining four are to be delivered in 2022. A further 11 have recently been ordered by Evergreen, all of which have a capacity of 23,000 TEU.

These ultra large containerships will be deployed on the Asia-Europe route at a time when freight rates indicate that there is no need for additional capacity, and existing sailings are being cancelled despite the 5.2 per cent volume growth rate.

As these newer ships are introduced, cascading of smaller ships will lead to added capacity on smaller routes. As larger ships have arrived on the Far East to Europe routes, neo-Panamax ships (10,000 - 14,499 TEU) have found themselves being deployed elsewhere, a trend which will continue with larger and larger ships entering smaller trades. Cascading disrupts the balance of these trades where there is currently little demand growth.

Growth rates on intra-Asian container trades are regarded as an indicator of what is to come on long-haul routes, as volumes here indicate the health of supply chains in the region and therefore what finished goods are likely to be exported from Asia in the near future. With a volume growth rate of 0.8 per cent in the first seven months of 2019, low growth levels can be expected in global demand for container shipping for the remainder of the year.

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