Asia to North Europe shipments rose by 5.2% following eight months, reaching to 6.8 million teu. Drewry said: “By all accounts it was a strong peak season this year, but the spike or seasonality was slightly less pronounced, and it would appear it started earlier. Several factors account for this advancement, but two key ingredients are the general rise of online shopping and the greater adoption in Europe of the American retail marketing ‘Black Friday’ discounting event on the last Friday of November that have both served to dilute some of the traditional surge to meet the Christmas shopping season.”
Drewry expects that trade growth may slow down after the ‘Chinese Golden Week’ holidays mind, as factories close during the first week of October, with the end-of-year growth slipping to 4%. “This view is given some credence by the complete lack of success carriers had in raising rates at the start of September,” Drewry stated.
“Looking further ahead we believe that demand growth will settle at about 3% for 2018 as the restocking and recovery plays in locations such as Russia seen this year will become less influential on growth trends.”
CMA CGM delivered a short-term service SEANE connecting Southeast Asia to North Europe in July to match the seasonal demand. “Due to the introduction of this service and upgrading of vessels in a few other loops, head haul net capacity will increase by a projected 12% for November,” Drewry noted.
Though, carriers have confirmed a number of voids from the end of September and early October due to the closure of many Chinese factories, cutting around 30,000 teu per month from the trade, around 3% from the total that was made in August.
“By the start of 2018 we anticipate that effective westbound capacity will remain significantly inflated compared to the same point a year ago, at as much as 20% higher year-on-year.
“More generally, with a massive influx of ULCVs scheduled for delivery in 2018 and 2019, carriers might have to rationalise services again and cascade a number of existing 14,000 teu units to smaller routes to prop up ship utilisation.”
Spot rates down on the previous twelve months, but profits were still made.
“Rates have been on a more prolonged downturn since September even though utilisation was unlikely to have decreased too dramatically from the mid-90% average seen in the previous four months.
“Despite the most recent softness of the market, we believe that rates will once again trend upwards in 2018, on the working assumption that carriers, working in a smaller competitive pool, will continue to display the same capacity management skills that have served them well this year to help to offset the new build deliveries.
“Demand and freight rates will undertake a seasonal drop as the year closes out, but the longer-term outlook for this trade remains positive,” the analysist concluded.