Date: 01.05.2024

Ocean demand outweighs supply

The ongoing impact of vessel diversions as a result of the Red Sea conflict continues to absorb available capacity at a time when demand is rapidly increasing. Container volumes are already higher than many predicted and there is a possibility that we have already entered a peak season market environment.

Container shipping lines are deploying maximum numbers of their fleets and new vessel deliveries and sailing them faster to offset the longer transits around southern Africa, but there is a finite limit on how much space they can throw at the market.

The additional two weeks it takes for ships to sail around the Cape of Good Hope effectively reduces available vessel capacity, with an average of 11 weekly scheduled voyages from Asia to Northern Europe in the coming weeks. Compared to the typical average of 17 voyages through the Suez Canal.

With spot rates rising as capacity tightens, it is clear that unwary shippers’ cargo will not get shipped, as capacity hits an increase in demand, extending the booking window to a minimum of 21 days ahead of cargo ready date.

The situation is further complicated by blanked sailings, smaller capacity vessels being used to fill schedule gaps and carriers restructuring their networks to support new sailing schedules.

The overall impact means that in recent weeks there has been anything up to a 50%-80% capacity cut on certain lanes, with carriers implementing additional blank sailings around this week’s Bank Holidays in China.

The intelligence that we are receiving from our network and carrier partners is that May and June could be tough in terms of equipment and space across the whole of Asia for all the major container shipping lines and this is in what would usually be the quieter period ahead of the peak season.

European imports from the Far East are up 12% year on year and US imports up 24%, which means strong Westbound and transPacific peak seasons are assured. However, demand into other markets is even more pronounced, with Asia to Middle East/India and Asia to Oceania’s both up nearly a third.

The demand explosion means more equipment is going to these regions than forecast, with some lines imposing priority surcharges, rolling cargo and others restricting equipment for contracted clients.

China’s factory activity has been growing for six straight months, suggesting that the rebound in the world’s second-biggest economy can be sustained, with export orders surging and a significant peak period looking certain.

We urge you to provide us with forecasts ahead of time, ensure shippers book 21 days ahead of cargo ready date and to communicate with us if you have any urgent/high priority orders.

We negotiate long-term and protected contracts with shipping lines across the alliances to secure space and rates, so that we can provide the best alternatives and options, whatever the situation.

To learn how we can support your Far East, transPacific or transAtlantic trade, or to learn more about our ocean capability and solutions, please EMAIL our Chief Commercial Officer, Andy Smith.