The shipper's view
According to the latest container shipping market review carried out by MDS Transmodal and the Global Shippers Forum (GSF) and distributed by the Swiss Shippers' Council (SSC), container traffic continues to grow, but the market is still in turmoil.
Container flows increased by 4% in Q2, up 22% year on year, returning close to pre-Covid growth levels. Yet the slight increase in the numbers of ships deployed cannot overcome the current transport backlogs, rising rates and declining service.
Mike Garratt, chairman of MDS Transmodal, pointed out that “capacity shares based on vessel sharing agreements (or consortia) in some key markets now exceed 40%. This high level of consolidation has the benefit of enabling lines to adjust capacity allocation in line with changing demand but, combined with the resulting very high levels of utilisation, this has allowed freight rates to remain at historically unprecedented levels."
In contrast, performance indicators hit historic lows. James Hookham, director of the GFS, used even more drastic words: "Importers and exporters are facing a meltdown of the container shipping market, with rates in the stratosphere, slots up for auction and service performance in the trash. The prospects for the coming peak season look grim.”
Philipp Muster, director of the Swiss Shippers' Council, sees even greater risks: "The numerous shipments that cannot be transported economically due to the currently high margins don't even show up in the statistics." In fact, in some ports around the world, the problems in cargo handling are also due to containers being stuck at the quay, in the terminal or export warehouses at the port and taking up capacity required for handling. Muster: "Even in the short term, this standstill can drive many SMEs that do not produce high-priced goods for export into insolvency."
Currently, carriers have doubled their earnings per box compared to pre-pandemic times. (cd)