Trans-Pacific volumes are performing well but the outlook for Asia-Europe is at best “challenging,” according to one leading shipping executive.
Thomas Knudsen, Asia Pacific CEO of Maersk Line, said utilization rates into U.S West Coast ports had been running at over 90 percent in recent months keep spot rates firm.
“We’re not sure if shippers have been planning ahead in case of strikes at East Coast ports, or if they are seeing higher demand than expected,” he said.
“Furniture is stronger than expected from South East Asia into the U.S., so the housing market might be getting better, but the jury is still out on the second half of the year.”
The situation on Asia-Europe trades is poor, however. Knudsen said demand in June and July had been “very weak” with imports to the Mediterranean dropping by double digits in the second quarter. “North Europe is slightly better, but it’s also not a good story.”
He said there were few positive signs for the Asia-Europe trade over the rest of the year and into 2013 and the carrier would consider spot withdrawals, more port calls, vessel idling and adding more ships to existing strings to reduce capacity if demand was poor post-October. “We think the Med will be challenged next year and North Europe will fare a little bit better.”
“We’re optimistic on demand but we’re not expecting positive growth, at least into the Med.”
“We have announced capacity reductions for Asia-Europe and we are considering rate adjustments in the upcoming months. This is in line with our ongoing plans to pursue satisfactory rate levels.”
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