Looking to 2011, we foresee some challenges, but remain optimistic on the overall outlook for the shipping and trade industries.
Key economic drivers, such as the U.S. housing market, have not rebounded to pre-downturn levels, and will likely continue to affect Panama Canal traffic. European financial markets also will be on the radar.
As development springs back, we anticipate sustained growth in bulk trade, especially U.S. corn and soybean exports to Asia, U.S. coal exports to Asia and Colombian coal to Chile. Iron ore shipments from Venezuela and Brazil to China also are expected to be strong.
Despite the sluggish recovery, we see growth in areas that could yield several trends. For example, the U.S. car industry is growing again, in some cases even replacing demand for imports. Although the U.S. market hasn’t delivered the accelerating recovery most automakers had projected, American car manufacturers are confident buyers’ slow but steady willingness to pay more for 2011 model vehicles will further boost sales. We expect the U.S. to continue to export excess inventories of diesel and gasoline to Latin America until the economic recovery triggers domestic demand for these products.
Ocean carriers are optimistic about market conditions and are ordering larger vessels. The cellular fleet is expected to grow 9 percent this year, and as the industry recovers, carriers are expected to introduce new capacity through the Panama Canal during next year’s peak season.
Transshipment will remain strong and become increasingly important because of a boost in containerization and cargo moving in larger ships. According to our analysis, the industry could see a 6 percent bump in global container trade. As technology improves, we anticipate ship orders to continue, complete with more environmentally efficient, yet powerful engines.
Without question, shipping lines and their customers are looking for cost-effective solutions during these uncertain times, and it’s imperative every link in the supply chain works to provide the necessary infrastructure to support the changing needs of the industry.