After reaching a record high in 2015, U.S. containerized imports are likely to stay on an upward track this year as housing market gains strengthen and import prices remain subdued.
Annual Review and Outlook - Maritime
Out of necessity, ports are taking strategic steps to enhance their leverage, reduce risk and protect their market share. They’re doing this by entering into more collaborative relationships with partners that are often their strongest competitors.
Softness in key parts of the global economy is producing cautious forecasts about U.S. containerized imports and exports in 2016. High retail inventory levels have cast a pall over imports. The strong dollar and weak overseas demand are putting a dent in exports.
After bottlenecks and delays in 2014, it was tempting to greet the lack of congestion in ports across Asia in 2015 with relief, but the open berthing windows and “come right in” signs were, in fact, an indicator of falling demand.
With two and possibly three mergers or acquisitions among container lines scheduled to occur this year, beneficial cargo owners are wondering how their supply chains will be impacted.
What changes can shippers expect from the larger Panama Canal locks? There’s no consensus. Though ocean carriers already are factoring the canal expansion into their routing plans, most analysts expect the changes to play out gradually over several years. Wild cards include trade demand, intermodal rail rates, canal toll levels, fuel prices, carrier mergers and acquisitions, and shifts in ocean carrier alliances.
U.S. ports and terminal operators are addressing congestion by building larger, modern facilities, some of which feature the latest in automation. They are extending terminal gate hours, testing innovative processes such as container dray-offs and peel-offs, and investing in land-side connectors.
The coming year presents a perfect storm of economic, political and social pressures to keep ocean transportation rates at all-time lows, thus creating continued losses, increased capacity and looming consolidation for ocean vessel operating common carriers.
When looking ahead at what is expected to come about in the ocean shipping industry in 2016, an important question to ask is: Could the benefits of digitalization be worth $10 billion, $20 billion or more in savings?