29 April 2017
The restructuring of East-West route after establishing of container shipping alliances became more aggressive than earlier expected and many shippers suffered from lack of container units for their export. Mostly were affected the European ports in Black Sea, North Sea and Baltic Sea, as well as inland ports, which have much lower quantities of free units from the feeders, due to low inbound laden containers. There is a big congestion in the ports of Istanbul, Hamburg and Rotterdam, which additionally weight on the shipping flows. In many cases even the most expensive lines are overbooked and cannot provide free units for the shipping, which seriously affect the export and trade of Europe to Asia and Africa. Now many of the lines are overbooked for 1-2 months ahead and delays caused chaos on the trade lines.
“there are no free containers in none of the lines. We are delaying our deliveries with more than 2-3 months”, said Bulgarian shipper, being seriously affected by the crisis in the sector. “However, it was expected, as in certain period container freight rates to Asia and Middle East were lower than 10,000-20,000 DWT conventional ship freight rate”, added the forwarder.
Despite of the promises for optimization of the container trade flows and opening of new port hubs, made by the largest carriers, the feeders dropped calls at many ports and reduced their capacities, due to lowering of the East-West shipping flows. The situation is not expected to improve soon after the initial shock on the markets, but since the beginning of the month, all the container links are rejecting or highly delaying exports of European shippers to Middle East and Asia.
“We are seeing gaps in schedules across both THE and the Ocean alliances of up to two weeks, depending on the destination”, said the forwarder, adding that 2M schedules were also being affected.
Many companies suffered from finance loses by the reorganization of the container shipping market and establishment of the alliances. The trade is getting harder and customers are unsatisfied. Many shippers are considering moving their exports to more attractive and quite more expensive Mediterranean ports, where only the road transport is more expensive than the container shipping cost. Such strategy might be useful for expensive products, but for cheaper industrial goods the final price gets too expensive.
Another point in the problems of the world container shipping is the big congestion in Asian ports, such as Shanghai and Hong Kong. The carriers are diverting vessels from the congested ports and the cargo operations of some ships that reach a berth is often subject to a “cut and run” strategy, leading to short shipments and carried-over boxes.
Meanwhile, ports in North Europe that have been prone to bouts of severe berth and landside congestion during the dramatic upsizing of container vessels, will fear the knock-on effect of delayed arrivals of ULCVs competing for berth space. As a result, landside operations will be impaired, creating a vicious circle of slower ship and port operations.