2013 Annual Review & Outlook - Maritime
With much of Europe mired in recession, the U.S. economy chugging along slowly and Asia growing at its slowest rate in years, it's looking like another year of slow growth for U.S. containerized imports and exports. But even slow growth is better than what the Asia-Europe trade may be facing. And, with an armada of new, big ships scheduled to enter service this year, ocean carriers will be challenged to sustain the level of rates they achieved in 2012, when they managed supply and demand through a combination of slow-steaming, idling of vessels and consolidation. Shipping in other trades looks more optimistic. The near-sourcing trend that has shifted more manufacturing to Mexico and South America, combined with strong automobile production and new trade agreements, is bolstering the U.S.-Latin America market. And in the Far East, the intra-Asia trade again is likely to post the most rapid growth of any trade, driven by the manufacturing prowess of China and Southeast Asia and a growing, consumer-minded middle class.
2012’s container shipping rally produced rising freight rates that brought liner operators back to profitability. But with the market at another ebb, liner companies collectively must keep a cool head and resist the temptation to engage in a price war that would jeopardize a sustainable recovery.