Excess capacity hitting box freight rates hard

Boxships are sailing not fully laden amid dangerously excessive capacity leading to fears of a slump in financial results for liners this quarter.

Container analysts at SeaIntel Maritime Analysis have reported that the recently-ended 2017 peak season saw transpacific freight rates “seriously underperform expectations”, despite carriers reporting healthy demand growth and full vessels.

The utilisation data in SeaIntel’s analysis however challenges that narrative, with the consultancy claiming vessels have been moving when not full.

“2017 utilisation on the transpacific has only breached 90% in September 2017, and only marginally so, and with healthy demand growth the only logical explanation is excess capacity,” SeaIntel noted in its latest weekly report.

SeaIntel has found 2017 quarter on quarter capacity levels to have significantly surpassed those of previous years, primarily as carriers have almost abandoned the use of blank sailings as a tool to manage capacity.

SeaIntel CEO Alan Murphy commented: “With volumes bound to drop in the fourth quarter relative to Q3 and capacity levels remaining high due to low levels of blank sailings, carriers are looking at a rather challenging freight rate environment in the fourth quarter, as also highlighted in our analyses of the past month.”

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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