Container ship lines are still struggling to reduce a vessel supply-demand gap that worsened last year and undermined freight rates, PIERS reports in a new analysis of carriers’ capacity utilization.
Carriers’ average load factors for combined imports and exports slipped 62.8 percent last year from 66.3 percent in 2011. Load factors declined to 67.6 percent from 70.9 percent for imports, and to 56.8 percent from 60.3 percent for exports, PIERS said.
The report noted there is typically a lag of a quarter or two between changes in carriers’ load factors and a rise or fall in carriers’ spot rates.
PIERS’ calculation of load factors was based on loaded containers as a share of ships’ nominal capacity. Because of stowage and stability considerations, nominal capacity typically exceeds actual capacity by a considerable margin.
Export load factors last year declined in all major trade routes tracked by PIERS. Import load factors declined in every trade lane except the east coast of South America and Oceania. Export volumes rose 4.3 percent to 6.4 million 20-foot-equivalent units last year, but carriers added 10.4 percent more slots during the year.
Total U.S. containerized Import volume last year slipped 0.4 percent to 12.7 million TEUs, while carriers’ nominal capacity rose 0.4 percent, PIERS said. The 3.3 percent drop in overall import load factors was heavily influenced by a decline in the trans-Pacific import load factor to 71.3 percent in 2011 from 76.1 percent.