Rather persistent uncertainty
In her editorial in the first issue of this year my colleague Antje Veregge quoted the Bavarian satirist Karl Valentin, who said that «only one thing’s certain – and that is that nothing is certain.» The current state of the global economy and the logistics industry, which have seen rising uncertainty in the face of political developments, have demonstrated just how right he is.
Peering into the crystal ball is once again a pointless exercise this year. Until recently it seemed inevitable that the West would continue to hold the short end of the stick, and that the East would maintain a firm grasp on the long end, using its leverage to march to economic triumph. The expected «big move» – that is, the repositioning of the centre of global economic power to China, India, and other emerging economies – appeared to be nothing more than a matter of time. But now the situation has changed, as our editor-in-chief Christian Doepgen spelled out in ITJ 5-6 / 2014, page 8. The powers currently seem to have swung back into equilibrium to an extent.
Uncertainty nevertheless continues to abound. Crises, streamlining, overcapacity, price pressure, mergers, alliance-building; they will all remain with us in our jubilee year. And that goes for every segment of the industry. Apropos of overcapacity – according to Alphaliner, the largest recent newbuilding order was placed by MSC. It encompasses 41 ships or 450,000 teu.
In the maritime world, alliances are developing between shipping lines that have been competing for decades – an astounding development. The hope is that the common use of their tonnage and the coordination of schedules will help the companies either to stay in the black or to return to profitability. A typical example of this approach is the P3 alliance (Maersk, MSC, CMA CGM). These three giants’ joint effort, which shippers in particular are keeping a close eye on, will not begin operations until the autumn of 2014, as the alliance is still waiting for some authorisations.
Consolidation is also occurring on a broad scale in ports, which are banding together in order to share their equipment and available area and use it as efficiently as possible. The possible cooperation of the ports of Long Beach and Los Angeles is the latest example thereof (see ITJ 17-18 / 2014, page 25).
Airlines, too, are seeking new business models. In addition to numerous mergers, some carriers have completely eliminated their cargo-only flights and are hoping to earn more money with belly cargo operations. The same thus applies in aviation – airlines’ and airports’ results are volatile, to put it diplomatically.
But throughout the industry, the hope is that the economy will be revitalised again and bring a surge in cargo volumes. The editors of the ITJ are looking forward to positive reports from the whole transport and logistics industry.