Container shipping in its most uncertain period ever

In the 60 years since Malcom Mclean first whacked a box on a converted tanker and ushered in the era of container shipping, the sector has never been so up in the air as now. The fact is we all have no idea how all the pieces of the jigsaw will fit when the liner consolidation is finally complete.

What we can say for sure is that the current container survival of the fittest challenge is far from over.

There are now 15 major global carriers, down from 20 five years ago. When this phase of container shipping is over, it’s likely the number of global carriers will be in single figures.

As a result, lines are being linked to acquisitions on a daily basis – container speed dating, if you will. By far and away the most read stories on Splash this week have been all related to who’s eyeing whom in the world of box shipping. To boot, given the spooked nature of container shipping post-Hanjin the rumour mill is in overdrive, as evidenced by a number of APL Logistics employees who intimated mighty K Line was going to go bankrupt.

As a journalist, these are exciting, albeit confusing, times.


Sam Chambers

Starting out with the Informa Group in 2000 in Hong Kong, Sam Chambers became editor of Maritime Asia magazine as well as East Asia Editor for the world’s oldest newspaper, Lloyd’s List. In 2005 he pursued a freelance career and wrote for a variety of titles including taking on the role of Asia Editor at Seatrade magazine and China correspondent for Supply Chain Asia. His work has also appeared in The Economist, The New York Times, The Sunday Times and The International Herald Tribune.


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