Alhan Haq, Head of Global FCL Procurement, deugro
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Alhan Haq, Head of Global FCL Procurement, deugro

The container shipping industry is navigating a turbulent landscape in 2024, facing a multitude of challenges that threaten its profitability and service stability. Consumer demand is sluggish due to inflationary pressures in Western economies, with projections indicating a mere 2% to 3% growth in containerized goods demand. China, a pivotal driver of container shipping, has experienced an export slowdown, further complicating the industry’s outlook.  

Carriers will need to adapt their service networks to cater to emerging markets while grappling with the oversupply of container ships commissioned in recent years. This excess capacity will exert downward pressure on freight rates throughout 2024. To counteract this, carriers will resort to capacity management measures such as blank sailings, vessel idling and slow steaming, posing logistical challenges for shippers in planning their cargo movements. Shippers will need to remain agile and adaptable to cope with these service disruptions. 

Adding to the industry’s uncertainty are impending regulatory changes, including the termination of antitrust block exemptions for liner shipping companies and the implementation of the EU Emissions Trading System (EU ETS) in 2024. Carriers will be forced to reconsider their existing cooperation through shipping alliances and restructure their service offerings to comply with these regulations. The EU ETS will impose additional carbon pricing obligations on carriers, further elevating their operating expenses. 

These changes are likely to have a significant impact on the profitability of the liner shipping industry, which will ultimately be passed on to shippers in the form of increased shipping costs to regulated regions. 
In this dynamic market environment, shippers must remain aware of the cyclical nature of the industry and maintain close relationships with their core carriers. Striking the right balance between utilizing spot market rates and securing long-term carrier contracts will be a critical strategic decision for shippers in the coming year.