SeaIntel: Rate hikes to coincide with Asia-Europe capacity cuts in August
CONTAINER shipping lines' efforts to tighten capacity are continuing in a bid to firm up freight rates, with shippers and forwarders being urged to brace themselves for further capacity cuts in mid-August.
According to data compiled by liner consultancy SeaIntel Maritime Analysis, capacity across all carriers will be cut "dramatically" in the weeks commencing July 29 (week 31) and August 19 (week 34).

Container capacity on the Asia-Europe trade in week 31 will be reduced by four per cent week to week compared with week 30, when the slot count will fall from 364,300 TEU to 350,800 TEU.

London's Loadstar also reported that this capacity reduction will coincide with the start of the next push by ocean carriers to raise freight rates by introducing a peak season surcharge (PSS), which for most is expected is US$500 per TEU, although Maersk Line is implementing a peak season surcharge of $300 on August 1.

The cut in capacity soars to a hefty 13 per cent in week 34 with space due to be lowered to 329,300 TEU from 379,500 TEU in week 33. However, capacity will rise again 20 per cent in week 35 to 394,100 TEU.

"We are going to see a massive swing in capacity in that week (week 34)," SeaIntel managing partner Alan Murphy told The Loadstar. "And customers may well find it very difficult to be able to book cargo for that week."

Calculated on a year on year basis, capacity in week 31 will be 7.6 per cent less than the same period in 2012, and week 34 will have 13.7 per cent less capacity.

Mr Murphy attributed the drop in capacity to a variety of factors, including extended voyage times and slow-steaming, as a well as an odd coincidence that the main groupings of shipping lines will be simultaneously operating smaller ships on the trade.

"I don't think this is in any way planned, but it is driven by a couple of the networks being reshuffled and some blank sailings that week," said Mr Murphy.

On the other hand, he was still of the opinion that carriers were actively trying to rein in capacity. "On the Asia-Europe trade, it is down by two to three per cent year on year, which is actually pretty impressive when you consider all the deliveries of ultra-large container vessels," he said.