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Container trades could achieve balance in two years

Container trades could achieve balance in two years
Present global container traffic trends offer some hope that the industry could achieve a sense of balance two years out, dependent on further quiet in vessel ordering.

The first half was spotty, thereby consistent with economic trends, but delivered growth of 4.9% overall, according to Container Statistics. June was clocked at a relatively upbeat rate of 7.3%. Because of the slack in the system, the growth did little for rate levels, which continued to drag along the bottom, achieving 85% of the January 2013 index.
For the container owners, the location of the traffic was as important as the teu totals, because of the disparity in the length of haul among the various trade lanes. The impact was magnified by the reshaping of the industry’s vessel sizes to accommodate new deliveries of ultra large ships dedicated to the key long-haul Asia-Europe trade. On this score, the news was moderate. Overall, Asian container exports increased 10% in June, nearly twice the pace of the first half. Imports were up 10.6%.  However, European exports fell slightly in June and averaged 4% growth for the first half. Imports, the heavy leg of the trade from Asia, increased nearly 7% for June and 6.5% for the half.
North America, which struggled through an extended winter, showed an increase in exports of 4.3% in June, while imports were up 3.8%.
Later numbers reported by the Intermodal Association of North America showed solid growth in July, with international container movements increasing 9.6%.  Compared to Europe-Asia, the North American trade is key to absorbing less-than-ultra sized ships that are being cascaded as the larger vessels are delivered. This would presumably become more critical once the Panama Canal expansion is completed in early 2016, raising the effective limit from 4,500 teu to 12,500 teu.
Among the smaller trades, the largest growth contributor was India Subcontinent and Middle East. Exports were up 17.9% in June and 12.4% for the half. Imports were up 11.7% in June and 5% for the half.Results for other trades were somewhat sluggish, with South American volumes actually down 4.7% in June and imports up 1.9%.
As to future ordering, the industry has remained largely on hold, however, there are reports that Scorpio, after building up very large orderbooks in the bulker and tanker sectors has taken its first plunge into boxships with an order for ultra-large containerships. The rest of the industry is perhaps awaiting the views of Chinese authorities on the attempt by the two industry leaders, Maersk Line and Mediterranean Shipping Co (MSC), to pair up their capacity in the 2M alliance. An earlier attempt as the P3 network to include a third carrier, CMA CGM, failed to win approval.