Shipping lines act to support rates by cancelling sailings from Asia

Across the major shipping trade lanes a total of 56 sailings have been blanked over the next four weeks – so far – representing an 8% cancellation rate.

The halting of factory production, following the continuing lockdown in Shanghai, is resulting in a drop in export bookings from China, the ‘worlds factory’, of up to 40%, while numerous containerships are waiting at anchor off Shanghai port for berths and cargo to be loaded, many are waiting for orders from their head offices.

Despite seemingly diverging in strategic direction, the carriers response to market conditions is to implement blank sailings, that will keep supply aligned with demand and therefore freight rates elevated.

Up to w/c 30th May The Alliance has announced 21 cancellations, followed by 2M and Ocean Alliance with 14 and 6 cancellations, respectively. That is a fair chunk of capacity to be withdrawn.

Asia-North Europe freight indexes suggest that carriers efforts to increase bookings have had little effect and the impact on spot rate indices has been minimal and are in keeping with the usual situation in the period after the Chinese New Year and before the start of the peak season.

Industry consensus is that rates would stabilise, or soften slightly if demand keeps falling, before starting to pick up again towards peak season – and when China ‘opens up’ there could be a huge spike in demand – resulting in spot/ FAK rates rebounding back to 2021 levels very quickly.

The number of import containers arriving at the port of Los Angeles was down 20% this week, compared to last year, reflecting the fall in Chinese export bookings and reducing the waiting times for vessels to berth to 2.7 days.

Our sea freight experts have highlighted the threat of a surge of containers, that will follow Shanghai’s reopening. Their primary concerns is that any surge may arrive on the US west coast when the ILWU are still negotiating their new current labour contract, with the threat of industrial action leading to massive disruption.

Maersk, now the world’s 2nd largest container shipping line’s 1st quarter net profit was $6.8bn, with expectations for Q2 to be better still.

Maersk’s loaded volumes declined 6.7% over the quarter, compared to a global market volume decline of 1.2%, which points to a significant decline in market share.

MSC, the world’s biggest shipping line, remain in private hands and do not publish detailed financials, but their focus has been on massively growing the MSC fleet with acquisitions and new ship orders.

How much this rush to become the biggest carriers has cost is impossible to know and we don’t know what capacity may be added to 2M services in 2023/2024, but there could be big implications for deployment, capacity and pricing. However it is reported widely in the trade press that this year is expected to be a huge year for the mainstream container shipping lines profits with $300 BILLION cited as the expected 2022 record return.

We are working closely with our network partners, carriers and own offices across China, to monitor the evolving blanking situation and find solutions for our customers, including time-sensitive shipments.

We maintain long-term contracts with a selection of shipping lines across all three alliances that secure space and rates, to provide the best alternatives and options, whatever the situation.

Metro aim to keep you advised daily of the latest developments in the industry, across all trade lanes, all modes and all methods of transport – always giving options and the best alternatives available. Please call Chris Carlile or Andy Smith for the latest advice and recommendations – bespoke and tailored services are what we deliver…