Conventional wisdom has been that the current crisis in container shipping will produce a shakeout of global carriers. Will it? Don't be so sure.
News that Zim Integrated Shipping Services is moving toward restructuring is the latest sign that when push comes to shove, investors seem willing to ante up more cash to keep major lines afloat.
Two other troubled container lines, Hapag-Lloyd and CSAV, also received emergency lifelines recently after they seemed to be down for the count. Investors and lenders have been willing to help the big carriers because the alternative is worse -- being stuck with ships for which there's no market.
Shipyards have been willing to play along by delaying deliveries, because they have no vessel orders after they complete the ones already on their books. Strapped carriers have been trying to restructure charter agreements, but there have been no reports that any major carrier has abrogated a charter deal.
That doesn't mean everything's rosy. Barring an unexpectedly quick economic recovery, some failures appear likely by weaker regional carriers that have become overextended.
Most of the big global carries, however, appear likely to weather this storm, although they'll emerge badly weakened by years of losses. These losses may be exacerbated by competiton from "zombie" carriers that continue to operate despite negative assets and profitability.
For cargo interests, carriers' financial health is always a concern. But in this worst of all container shipping downturns, the main impact on shippers is likely to be reduced service, not carrier bankruptcies.