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2014/ 2015 Container shipping: where do we go?

2014/ 2015 Container shipping: where do we go?
Was 2014 a good year for container carriers? Whether is was good or bad, for sure it was not an easy year.

Was 2014 a good year for container carriers? Whether is was good or bad, for sure it was not an easy year. Let me summarize some random selected headlines:

-P3 cancelled.
-Announcement of 2M.
-Manila & LA port have serious port congestion issues.
-Four alliances control 95% of global container business.
-On-time ranking to historical low levels. (g6 rock bottom with 41% on time arrival)
-Maersk & Kotahi (NZ) sign a 10 year deal for 2.5 million TEU export.
-Carriers distancing themselves from shippers.
-CSCL Globe’s maiden sailing, 19.000 TEU vessel.
-Extreme rate fluctuations disrupt market in 2014.
-Maersk CEO: no fan of long-term contracts..
-Q3 2014: most carriers back in black.
-Idle box fleet shrinks to lowest level since 2008 in nov. 2014.
So what will 2015 bring us? For sure there will be less variety, and less choice when it comes to selecting different services. With 95% of the market controlled by 4 alliances, the choice which carrier to use seems less important. More important is which alliance to choose. G6 has a poor reputation when it comes to on-time ranking, the big question is if Maersk will maintain their high-ranking position with the 2-M alliance.

Of course, carriers have more differences than just their sailing schedules. Equipment availability, space allocation, pricing, just to name a few, play an important role when you choose a carrier. It will be interesting to see how carriers present themselves in a market that seems to go more and more towards a commodity trade.

The comment that carriers are distancing themselves from shippers is interesting. Shippers claim that carriers don’t offer the service level they need, on the other hand, not many shippers are willing to pay for a reliable, unique service. Maersk tried this with the daily Maersk service, but this has not been the huge success that was expected.

Carriers reacted on shippers requirements in regard to pricing, and to be able to match shippers demands, they focused on cost savings. As a result we have 4 alliances to choose from. With the focus on cost savings, reliability slides which disrupts supply chains. The interesting question is: does the slipping reliability in supply chains cost more than cost saved by carriers? Would it be better for a shipper to pay a premium for reliability?

2015 will be an interesting year. Ships are getting bigger an bigger, and with the introduction of new ships, the market becomes more volatile. When the 19.000 TEU CSCL Globe was introduced, prices dropped to rock bottom as the O-3 carriers wanted to fill up the vessel. With more mega-vessels coming, it will be interesting to see what the carriers will do to control price levels.

Another important question is: how do we get back to reliability and sustainability? In the current market, prices are changing on a daily basis. Supply & demand is not balanced, and the level of imbalance changes day by day. Customer service teams are working overtime to keep customers up-to-date. Pricing changes daily based on the imbalanced level of supply & demand.

It is hard to forecast what 2015 will bring us. A lot of questions are hard to answer, and the only reliable answer to the above questions is that the future will tell.
 

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