Christian Sur, Executive Vice President, Unique Logistics
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Christian Sur, Executive Vice President, Unique Logistics

The container shipping industry is poised to face challenges in the coming year. From a container and industry perspective, this is due to an imbalance between supply and demand as a key driver for both shippers and ocean service providers. These oversupplied conditions are expected to persist for the next three to four years, primarily driven by the influx of newly ordered vessels entering the market. Next year will be a critical year to watch, as it will mark the first full year of operations for these newly delivered vessels, particularly in major east–west trade routes.

Volume demand is anticipated to return to more typical seasonal cycles, and the capacity of supply and equipment will likely be more than sufficient to support any seasonal spikes. This presents challenges for vessel operators, who may need to employ strategies such as blank or canceled sailings, slow-steaming and service withdrawals. These measures would necessitate the laying-up or anchoring of vessels to manage capacity effectively.

Given the anticipated fluctuations in supply by vessel operators and ocean carriers, non-vessel-operating common carriers (NVOs) and forwarders will play a crucial role. They will need to provide timely support in securing space, particularly when a given week’s supply may be lacking from certain origin ports, especially non-direct-called origin ports. Additionally, they will need to offer cost-competitive solutions in a market where supply outstrips demand, ultimately facilitating lower costs for transporting containerized cargo from Asia to North America.

While there are concerns about draft and capacity limitations at the Panama Canal and potential closures or delays at the Suez Canal due to geopolitical conflicts, their impact on containerized vessels is expected to be minimal. However, these concerns may influence progress in renewing the pending International Longshoremen’s Association labor agreement, set to expire in September 2024.