TRADE route figures tracked by industry monitor Drewry Maritime Consultants showed some signs of growth in Asia in the second quarter, which may indicate 2016 will be a marginally better year than 2015, the firm said in its latest report.
In its latest Container Insight Report, UK-based Drewry said that 10 of the 14 trades it tracks, ones mostly covering Pacific ports, did show some growth in the first half of the year, adding an overall total of 988,000 TEUs (20-foot equivalent units) in volume, just under one percent for the six-month period compared with the flat volume a year earlier. About half of the volume increase was attributable to the Asia-West Coast North America trade.
The highest growth rate was recorded in the Asia-Oceania (Australia and New Zealand) trade at 9 percent, while the worst performer was the Asia-East Coast South America (mainly Brazil and Argentina), which saw 16 percent lower volume year-on-year, Drewry said.
The report added that if the H1 performance is maintained in the second half of the year, the full-year trade volume growth would just exceed the 0.8 percent growth rate for all of 2015, which was the second-lowest growth rate this century (after 2009).
Drewry said that despite the tough market conditions, carriers seemed to be adapting, speeding up the scrapping of smaller, older ships and selectively suspending voyages in the weakest months.
As a result, the report continued, fronthaul load factors—the percentage of ship capacity used on outbound voyages—was at about 90 percent in the second quarter, higher than the 86 percent load factor for the same
period in 2015.
Drewry pointed out that load factors at or above 90 percent mean that carriers would have more success in raising their freight rates.
“While rates are trending upwards, their slow pace indicates that supply and demand alone is not dictating pricing and that shippers and forwarders are still the beneficiaries of predatory commercial strategies on the part of carriers,” the report observed.
“Carriers are well accustomed to the slow-growth era of container shipping, proving they can match supply and demand relatively well. However, it is a delicate balancing act with very little margin for error,” it concluded.