Vessel layups and new shipping alliances will help push up container shipping freight rates in coming months but many operators still will struggle to return to profitability, one analyst.
“The newly formed alliances do offer the hope of improvement in rates over the second half of 2011, but to levels where many operators flirt with continued losses,” Janet Lewis, the Hong Kong-based head of Asia shipping research for Macquarie Capital Securities, said in an interview.
“The first step is for the alliances to develop their strings with capacity that meets market needs, because if everyone is operating at just 80 percent load factors, pricing discipline won't hold,” she said.
The new G6 alliance that includes members of the Grand Alliance and the New World Alliance recently pushed up the start date of its Asia-Europe joint operations to March 1, coinciding with the launch of a Mediterranean Shipping-CMA CGM pact and the proposed implementation of aggressive new rate increases on the troubled trade lane.
Lewis said a true rate rebound likely won’t come until the peak season later this year.
“No carrier expects that the full amount of the proposed increases will be accepted by customers, but there was a strong belief that the tide has shifted direction and that they will achieve the first of what they hope will be a steady round of smaller increases over the course of the year,” she said.
“We continue to believe that most operators will struggle to make money in 2012, but the outlook has nevertheless improved," said Lewis.