Some trans-Pacific ocean carriers are skipping port calls and holding back vessel departures if bookings are weak, illustrating how feeble the peak shipping season has been and how aggressive carriers will get in the coming months to manage overcapacity.
Ocean World Lines CEO Dan Gardner said carriers have made route changes “in less than an organized fashion” as they grapple with overcapacity and declining freight rates in the eastbound Pacific.
Capacity shortages could worsen if more carriers discontinue vessel strings for several months this winter. Imports normally spike for a brief period in January or February as factories in China churn up production before closing for lunar New Year celebrations, which could last up to two weeks, Gardner told the Footwear Traffic Distribution and Customs Conference Monday.
Some carriers also canceled voyages in the first week of October to coincide with the shutdown of Chinese factories for the Asian country’s annual National Day celebration.
Only 129 container vessels totaling 227,000 20-foot equivalent container units of capacity have been laid up worldwide so far, said Gardner. That amounts to 1.8 percent of total global capacity. By contrast, during the depth of the 2009 recession, 723 vessels were laid up just in Singapore alone, he said.
“We can’t do anything about being rolled,” said Charlie Kantz, vice president of logistics and warehousing at Bakers Footwear Group.
Kantz said he was surprised some of his containers booked to leave Asian ports last week missed intended voyages because of vessel capacity shortage. If there really was a space problem in Asia in recent weeks, it was probably “artificial,” he said.