Carriers struggle with sluggish growth and there are fears peak season may not happen
While many were expecting a return to growth in Europe for 2013, it turns out that the economic parameters do not show any signs of an imminent lift-off now that half of 2013 is over.
Both at the global scale and in North Europe, container volumes are more or less flat. In the latest Global Port Tracker North Europe Trade Outlook, Hackett Associates and ISL forecast a growth of only 0.9% to 40.1 million teu in 2013 for total box handling in the Hamburg-Le Havre range.
“The recession continues,” said Hackett Associates founder Ben Hackett, “and it looks like the peak season may not come about.”
Carriers continue to look for ways to increase or at least stabilise rates while the world container carrier fleet continues to grow, particularly in the upper size classes.
A number of carriers are dropping voyages in August and September, said Hackett. “In this market climate, the announcement of the three largest carriers Maersk, CMA-CGM and MSC to form the P3 alliance and bundle activities on major trade routes is yet another move to tackle the issue of overcapacity.”
The consolidation moves of the carriers also impact on the North Range ports. Carriers with “home terminals” in the North Range try to convince their partners to move cargo to these terminals in order to increase their utilisation.
“While this is rather easy for transhipment traffic as the feeder costs are most often the same for these ports, shifting hinterland traffic is difficult in an alliance constellation,” explained Sönke Maatsch of ISL.
The P3 may hence concentrate transhipment traffic in certain ports where the carriers have their own terminals, but the hinterland traffic will most likely continue to be dispersed between the ports.