Despite slow growth in import demand in the trans-Pacific trade and the decline in demand in the Asia-Europe trade, the recovery in ocean freight rates is strong enough that BIMCO expects the peak season to become a “positive surprise.”
In its August market overview of the container trades, the Copenhagen-based association said rates should continue to hold up for the duration of the peak season, unless “deployed capacity reveals itself as abundant.”
BIMCO said growth rates in container volumes in the main trading lanes “pose a continuous challenge as they struggle to improve.” It forecast a strong August in the trans-Pacific trade, but expressed concern that weak demand in Europe would result in tougher times ahead for the container shipping industry in that trading lane as well as for the Asian manufacturing sectors.
Eastbound container volumes in the trans-Pacific increased 2.1 percent in the first six months of 2012, but westbound Asia-Europe volumes were down by as much as 2.1 percent in the same period as the European recession sapped demand.
BIMCO said it expects the liner industry’s short-term focus will be on balancing the demand for new tonnage with deployed capacity. It forecast an improved market balance, as the supply of vessel space is being diminished by strong scrapping activity, which is removing a significant number of smaller vessels with capacities of up to 3,000 20-foot-equivalent units.
With the peak season well under way in the Pacific, BIMCO said strong July import figures “give reason to believe that August could be strong, too, and support a continued positive trend in the U.S. West Coast freight rates.”
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