"Five new services are being launched in the transpacific before June and we believe that this will put continued pressure on the spot rates and the ability for carriers to push through increases they are seeking in May contract negotiations. This year will see another 59 ships of at least 10,000 TEU enter the global fleet," said the London maritime research consultancy.
"Given that Asia-US demand is still uncertain, this desire to re-introduce so much new capacity, rather than lay-up tonnage, could be a de-railer if there is a weak peak season. The cascading of larger vessels into the north-south trades is also becoming more noticeable and could also be a threat to their stability," said the report.
"We concur and forecast that east-west freight rates including fuel will rise by as much 13.7 per cent this year, but we should not be lulled into a false sense of security by the considerably higher spot rates in the weekly rate indices and think that all is now fixed," said the report.
"Ocean carriers have implemented GRIs [general rate increases] on both the headhaul Asia to Europe and Asia to US trades, but until very recently, even the largest 15,500-TEU vessels in the Asia-north Europe trade were not making money," the report said.
"Recent losses and the high fuel prices have forced the industry into a re-structuring which was started at the end of last year. Many carriers have now grouped together on the core Asia-Europe trade to pool their largest ships into fewer services and to share costs. This was unlikely to have happened several years ago, but has been forced out of necessity," it said.
"Nobody saw the huge $800 per TEU rate increases coming on the Asia-Europe trade and the timing of this bemused virtually everyone. Few believed it would be successful, but carriers have stood firm during a period when load factors have not necessarily been in the high 90s on the headhaul leg," said the report.
Said Drewry container research chief Neil Dekker: "Until the inherent structural capacity is truly tackled, we will continue to have periodic and violent bouts of overcapacity that will keep rates and operating margins yo-yoing up and down. Carriers do not see the severity of their situation since the number of ships in actual full term lay-up is fairly small."