The U.S. economy seems destined to continue its slow recovery, with market growth moving in a positive direction, albeit at a very tepid pace. This would also indicate that a more normal shaped peak season would be in store for the trans-Pacific trade lanes.
The recent lessons learned of slow-steaming, vessel-sharing agreements, consolidation of capacity (cascading of larger vessels from the shipyards), and carrier resolve and focus on profitability appears sustainable. This means that layups and/or charter off hires will continue to be a key factor and will drive the carrier’s plans/strategy going forward. Given the relevant cost of bunkers to a carrier’s cost basis, feasibility studies are under way to consider slow-steaming even on the head hauls.
On the intermodal front, truck power will continue to be a challenge, and it is expected the chassis paradigm will continue moving forward with the industry embracing the “trucker model.” Several major BCO retailers have initiated their own chassis program working directly with the major leasing companies.
The last issue that I want to surface is regulatory, where compliance issues are becoming more and more important every year. I cannot see anything on the horizon that lessens these requirements — in fact, quite the opposite; it appears that restrictions and controls will likely continue to increase in 2013, making compliance even more critical to everyone’s business and a core competency for carrier nominations.