The capacity discipline and rate stability seen since Hanjin Shipping sought court protection just over a year ago is now being eroded with battle lines being drawn up among competing carriers for a freight rate war, Alphaliner warns in its most recent weekly report.
Analysts at Alphaliner note that it has taken a year to to fully clear out the tonnage of the defunct South Korean carrier. Only a single vessel formerly operated by Hanjin remains idle: the 1,647 teu Orion, owned by Alpha Ship.
“The rapid depletion of the idle fleet since April and continued deliveries of 14,000-21,000 teu ULCS have added over 1m teu to the active fleet since last September,” Alphaliner notes.
While strong cargo demand has kept fleet utilisation levels at above 90% on most headhaul routes this year, the onset of the slack winter season from October is expected to put pressure on freight rates, Alphaliner has warned.
“The rate truce that carriers have largely abided by since Hanjin’s sudden exit one year ago, now appears to be crumbling. Rate slashing just ahead of the October holidays in China points to further rate instability as carriers continue to jostle for market share,” the weekly report stated.
The Shanghai Containerised Freight Index (SCFI) has recorded six consecutive weeks of declines and, despite strong peak season demand, carriers in August and early September failed to push rate increases through, something Alphaliner described as a “clear sign” that rate cutting is starting to take hold once again.