Shipping lines were successful with general rate increases (GRIs) and aggressive capacity management at the start of November, but spot rates then dropped, reported New York's FreightWaves.
'We expect Asia-Europe rates of US$930 per TEU in January and transpacific spot rates [weighted average US west coast and east coast] of $1,860/FEU,' said the analyst.
'Sentiment in the time charter market has slipped in recent weeks, although earnings remain broadly stable. The near-term outlook for most vessel benchmarks is muted, but a slow pipeline of vessel redeliveries should limit downside risk.'
According to MSI, demand growth on the Asia-Europe westbound trade was down 3.4 per cent year on year in September. 'With 10 months of data the Asia-US eastbound trade is 0.5 per cent higher year to date, and volumes shrank by 10.9 per cent in October,' the analyst was cited as saying.
'We expect a muted pace of expansion on the Asia-Europe headhaul in the coming quarters, although volume trends will be distorted by the timing of the Chinese New Year. Volumes will be higher in January and lower in February.'
Looking ahead, MSI anticipates growth of two per cent on the Asia-Europe westbound in 2020, following growth in 2019 of 3.5 per cent, and a decline 1.2 per cent on the transpacific eastbound in 2019, with the Asia-US decrease of two per cent partly offset by marginal positive growth to Canada.
'While risks are weighted to the upside, this will likely be a pace of growth that liner companies will find challenging to navigate given ULCS [ultra large container ship] deliveries to MSC, CMA CGM and HMM,' said the analyst.
'Given both this factor and the impact of IMO 2020, the annual 'relaunch' of the alliances' offerings in April could see lengthened rotations and increased 'buffer' time. Port connectivity could suffer.'