TWELVE of the world’s 25 largest shipping lines in the first nine months of 2016 suffered a combined net earnings decrease of US$13 billion, while average spot rates on the Shanghai-Rotterdam trade route were down to $618 all-in per TEU, equivalent to a suffocating $0.06 per nautical mile, according to Dynamar.
Consequently, last year saw six of the top 20 carriers go and China Shipping merging with Coscon; the acquisition of APL by CMA CGM; and Hanjin Shipping’s collapse.
This year will be shaped by the upcoming merger of UASC into Hapag-Lloyd in the first quarter of 2017; a proposed joint venture between “K” Line, MOL and NYK in September; and Maersk Line’s intended acquisition of Hamburg Sud towards the end of the year.
Smaller liner companies are also coming under pressure to consolidate in order to survive in an industry drowning in overcapacity amid a slowdown in world trade, particularly as China’s manufacturing output shrinks.
By mid-2016, 18 of the top 25 container shipping lines controlled 100 per cent of all mega ships and 94 per cent of the orderbook, representing 366 ships for a total of 4.9 million TEU, and 156 vessels for 2.7 million TEU, respectively. By the end of 2016, 178 ships with an average capacity of 15,300 TEU operated between North Europe and Asia.
None of the top carriers ordered vessels in 2016 apart from IRISL’s 14,500 TEU vessel order in December; and containership scrapping reaching a high of 700,000 TEU last year.
That said, at the end of 2016 it was reported that shipping industry confidence rose to its highest level in 15 months. It may have helped that in the fourth quarter, spot rates in all long-haul trades from Shanghai saw a recovery, to positively influence the level of contract rates for the New Year.
Since 2005, capacity has outgrown carryings by 38 per cent. Dynamar data indicates that 10 of the 12 top 25 carriers lost an average of $163 per TEU in the first nine months of 2016. Much larger ships and lacklustre growth caused North Europe-Far East frequency to drop to 16 weekly services, down from 32 a decade ago.