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Container spot rates remain high despite weaker supply/demand balance

In this week’s “Shipping Number of the Week” from BIMCO, chief shipping analyst, Niels Rasmussen, looks at the fact that despite a 70-80% fall in freight rates, and worsening of the supply/demand balance, liner operators have been able to keep rates higher than pre-pandemic levels.

“The Shanghai Containerized Freight Index and the China Containerized Freight Index have dropped by respectively 81% and 72% since January last year. Yet, they remain higher than in 2019 despite a worsening supply/demand balance,” commented Niels Rasmussen.

Although export volumes from the Far East were relatively stronger in March 2023, first quarter volumes fell 8.5% year-on-year because of a market slowdown that began in the 2nd half of 2022.

As a result, the volumes were only 2.1% higher than during the first quarter of 2019. Exports to the three top regions, which account for 80% of volumes, were down 0.1% combined, with the Far East up 0.6%, Europe down 4.5%, and North America up 2.6%.

Except for the United States, Australia/New Zealand, and Lagos (Nigeria), the spot rates to all destination are, however, more than 10% higher in May 2023 than in May 2019. To the Mediterranean, Santos, Dubai, and Durban they are approximately double of what they were in May 2019.

During the last four years, the container fleet has grown 16.9% in size and ended April 2023 at 26.2 million TEUs, 3.8 million TEUs larger than in April 2019.

“The average sailing speed of container ships in April 2023 was 3.4% lower than in April 2019. This has limited the supply that the fleet can deliver. However, the total available fleet supply has still significantly outgrown Far East export volumes,” noted Rasmussen.

Despite this, the average spot rates for Shanghai exports (SCFI) and average rates for China exports (CCFI) remain significantly up vs. 2019. Recently, liner operators even appear to have been able to stem the freight rate slide and achieved some level of stability.

Idle ships currently add up to about 90,000 TEUs more than four years ago, but this cannot explain the higher rates or how liner operators have been able to stabilise freight rates.

Despite overall supply/demand developments, liner operators must have become more efficient at matching capacity to cargo demand and/or a newfound freight rate discipline has emerged with each liner operator.

“No matter the underlying reason, we can conclude that despite a 70-80% fall in freight rates, and a worsening of the supply/demand balance, liner operators have so far been quite successful in keeping rates higher than pre-pandemic levels,” said Rasmussen.








Source: Container News


Reduction in containers lost at sea in 2022

In 2022, 661 containers were lost overboard, according to the annual report of World Shipping Council (WSC).

This number represents less than one-thousandth of 1% (0.00026%) of the 250 million containers currently shipped each year, with cargo transported valued at more than US$7 trillion.

“The reduction in containers lost at sea in 2022 is positive news, but there is no time for complacency. Every container lost at sea will always be one too many and we will continue with our efforts to make the sea a safer place to work, and to protect the environment and cargo by reducing the number of containers lost at sea,” stated John Butler, president and CEO of the WSC.

Reviewing the results of the total fifteen-year period surveyed (2008-2022), on average 1,566 containers were lost at sea each year.

WSC said proper packing, stowage and securing of containers, and reporting of correct weight are key to the safety of a container ship, its crew, and its cargo, to shore-based workers, and to the environment.

Additionally, the responsibility for container safety is shared across the supply chain, and liner carriers work daily with their partners to prevent incidents and ensure safe container transport, according to the report.

“The liner shipping industry works continuously to further enhance container safety, partnering with governments and other stakeholders to reduce the number of containers lost at sea,” noted WSC, which along with several member lines and a range of maritime stakeholders, launched the MARIN Top Tier project in 2021. The project has been established to examine and assess the causes of container losses arising from at-sea incidents onboard various sizes of boxships with a particular focus on ultra-large container vessels.

Source: Container News


DP World completes Vancouver port expansion

DP World and the Vancouver Fraser Port Authority have celebrated two historic events – the completion of the Centerm Expansion Project at DP World Vancouver, and the 100th anniversary of the port’s marine terminal operations.

More specifically, the completion of the Centerm Expansion Project, an US$259.7 million award-winning project to increase box throughput by 60% and position British Columbia as a leader in sustainable trade.

The newly expanded terminal can now handle 1.5 million TEUs a year, compared to 900,000 TEUs previously, while adding 15% to the terminal’s overall footprint.

Also, the project reduces the terminal’s environmental impact by adding capacity for container ships to connect to electrical shore power and converting its diesel yard cranes to electric.

DP World said it can further reduce the greenhouse gas emissions by eliminating wait times for vehicles at train crossings and building to LEED and Envision certification sustainability standards.

Sultan Ahmed Bin Sulayem, group chairman and CEO of DP World, commented, “The 100th anniversary of terminal operations on the west coast is a wonderful opportunity to celebrate Canada’s rich maritime and port history and look ahead to a future that includes DP World’s industry-leading technology and innovation in supply chains.”

Source: Container News


ZIM reports 769,000 TEUs in the first quarter of 2023

ZIM Integrated Shipping Services, a worldwide container liner shipping firm, has released its consolidated results for the three months ending 31 March 2023.

Carried volume in the first quarter was 769,000 TEUs, a 10% drop year on year, while the average freight cost per TEU was US$1,390, a 64% decline year on year.

Revenues for the first quarter were US$1.374 billion, a 63% decline year over year.

Furthermore, the first-quarter net loss was US$58 million. In addition, adjusted EBITDA for the first quarter was US$373 million, an 85% decline year on year, and operational loss (EBIT) for the first quarter was US$14 million.

“Following a record year of Adjusted EBITDA and EBIT generation, ZIM’s first quarter results reflected the significant decline in freight rates and weak demand, particularly in the Transpacific trade, that began last year,” stated Eli Glickman, ZIM president & CEO.

Glickman further added, “As such, for 2023, we have re-affirmed the guidance we shared earlier in the year of Adjusted EBITDA of between US$1.8 billion and US$2.2 billion and Adjusted EBIT of between US$100 million and US$500 million.”

Source: Container News


Port of Los Angeles handles 688,000 TEUs in April

The Port of Los Angeles processed 688,110 TEUs in April, a 22% decrease compared to last April, which was the second busiest on record.

Loaded imports in April 2023 totalled 343,689 TEUs, a 25% decrease from the previous year. Loaded exports reached 88,202 TEUs, a 12% decrease from the previous year, while empty containers amounted to 256,220 TEUs, a 23% drop from 2022.

Port of Los Angeles freight climbed 28% in March 2023 compared to February 2023, while cargo increased 10% in April 2023 compared to March 2023.

The Port handled 2,525,204 TEUs in the first four months of 2023, a 29% decrease over the same period of 2022. Last year began with the finest four-month start in the port’s history.

“A cooling global economy, warehouses laden with ageing inventory and prolonged West Coast labour negotiations have all contributed to a slowdown in trade,” stated Gene Seroka, executive director of Port of Los Angeles.

Seroka further added, “If economic conditions improve and we get a labour deal in place, that will help improve volume the second half of the year. We are prepared for the next cargo surge, whenever it comes.”

Source: Container News


Global Ports brings two Liebherr mobile cranes into operation at VSC terminal

Global Ports Group, a leading operator of container terminals in the Russian market, has installed two Liebherr LHM550 mobile harbour cranes at its Far Eastern terminal Vostochnaya Stevedoring Company (VSC), which is located in the deep-water port of Vostochniy in Primorskiy krai, Russia.

The new heavy-duty equipment supports the operation of VCS’s five STS cranes, increasing vessel handling speed and efficiency and enabling a 200,000 TEU increase in berth yearly capacity in the future.

The harbour cranes were custom-built in Germany for Global Ports and shipped to VSC pre-assembled.

The machines have a 144-tonne lifting capability and can work in three modes: hook, spreader, and grab. Each crane has a maximum reach of 54 metres and can handle vessels with up to 16 rows of containers. The Global Ports Petrolesport terminal in St Petersburg already has similar equipment.

VSC’s container throughput grew by 17.3% in the first quarter of 2023 compared to the first quarter of 2022, reaching 146,000 TEUs.

Global Ports has a steady investment schedule in place to boost terminal capacity in the Far East. In 2023-2024, nine new RTG and RMG cranes from China’s premier manufacturer ZPMC will join VSC’s fleet.

In addition, from the second part of 2022 to May 2023, the Group transferred about 30 equipment units, including RTGs, straddle carriers, reachstackers, and tractors, from North-West terminals to the Far East.

Furthermore, Global Ports started an extension project at VSC in September 2022 to develop the 470,000 square metre site adjacent to the port. The region will be developed with two container ports, storage areas, and a new railway front. The project will expand VSC’s throughput capacity from 700,000 to 1.7 million TEUs per year by the mid-2030s.

Source: Container News


ZIM invests in Spinframe

In particular, ZIM led this investment as part of its strategy to invest in early-stage companies involved in the digitalisation of supply chains.

Spinframe develops vehicle-inspection systems based on artificial intelligence (AI), computer vision, and machine-learning technologies, that create “Digital Twins” for vehicles throughout the supply chain and detect anomalies from the assembly line throughout the vehicle journey to the dealership and end customer.

More specifically, the platform is capable of overseeing a large number of vehicles without human intervention in various locations, such as seaports, transportation and logistics hubs, parking lots, agencies, rental branches, and service centers.

By that, the combination of advanced image processing, damage classification, and data cloud storage allows for immediate vehicle visualisation and status sharing at any stage, via a unified interface.

Additionally, Spinframe’s monitoring platform has already been implemented at a wide range of customers within the automotive industry.

Eli Glickman, ZIM president and CEO, commented, “After conducting successful PoCs, we have identified the immense potential of Spinframe’s technology and its applicability to our industry.”

He added, “As part of our overall approach and strategy, we actively seek out and invest in promising young companies as growth engines.”

Source: Container News


April container volumes increase at Saudi Ports

Saudi Ports Authority (MAWANI) announced that its container throughput in April 2023 grew at an annual rate of 13.34% from 601,429 TEUs to 681,663 TEUs as per monthly statistics.

Container data for last month further showed a 16.97% surge in exported volumes at 208,738 TEUs compared to 178,450 TEUs in the previous year. Imports have also inched up 3.12% to 208,080 TEUs from 201,784 TEUs this year with transshipments scoring 264,845 TEUs in April, a 19.73% increase year-on-year.

MAWANI has also revealed a 6.63% drop in cargo numbers at its ports, handling about 24,965,999 tons in contrast to 26,737,416 tons a year earlier.

The total cargo count for April included around 543,496 tons of general cargo, 4,135,552 tons of dry bulk cargo, and 13,026,227 tons of liquid bulk cargo.

Additionally, a similar decrease was also witnessed across the trade of food commodities with a 1.26% fall from 1,533,118 tons in 2022 to 1,513,729 tons in 2023.

On the contrary, livestock figures climbed 2.63% from 446,539 to 458,280 cattle heads.

Automobile units passing through Mawani’s hubs in April 2023 were estimated at 91,083 vehicles, a sizable jump of 52.8% from the 2022 level of 59,608.

The country’s ports also accommodated 983 vessels across its berths last month, a marginal uptick of 3.69% from 2022’s total of 948 vessels.

Source: Container News


Cyclone Mocha forces 60-hour operation closure at Chittagong port

The operations at the Chittagong port, Bangladesh’s prime seaport, had remained suspended over two days as the super cyclone Mocha approached and crossed the country on Sunday, 15 May.

The port authority had declared suspension of works on Friday night after Bangladesh Met office issued danger signal-8 for Chittagong Port, great danger signal 10 for Cox’s Bazar port, great danger signal-8 for Payra port and danger signal-4 for Mongla port.

The operation at Mongla seaport also remained suspended due to the cyclonic storm.

On Friday night the Chittagong Port Authority sent all the ships from its jetties to the outer anchorage while the lightering vessels were also sent to the safer places fearing any collision.

There were 18 vessels at the port jetties, which unloading and loading containers and cargoes, when the port authority declared operation suspension, according to port officials.

The cranes and other equipment were packed and put in safe places to avoid any possible incidents from the fierce wind of the super cyclone that was heading towards Bangladesh’s coast with over 200 kilometres of wind speed.

The activities at the port yards were also suspended on Friday night thus delivery of containers and cargoes was halted immediately.

The Met office withdrew danger signal for Bangladesh’s sea and river ports on Sunday night after cyclone Mocha left towards the Myanmar coast, severely lashing homes and establishments in Cox’s Bazar and St Martin’s Island.

The Chittagong Port Authority then announced operation resumption at the yard and started delivering containers and cargoes immediately.

However, container handling at the jetties could be resumed on Monday morning after bringing 17 ships back from the outer anchorage with the help of high tide, with Chittagong being a tidal port, 60 hours after the operation suspension.

One vessel left the port area just after declaration of work suspension, leaving some boxes at the jetty designated for it, to avoid two days of possible delay, according to port officials.

Many vessels could not reach Bangladesh waters during a couple of days due to the cyclonic storm or they slowed down their voyage and stayed away.

On Monday, eight container vessels were handling boxes at port jetties while another four boxships were staying at the outer anchorage. There were 44,018 TEU containers lying at the Chittagong port yards on the day against its total storing capacity of 53,518 TEUs.

Source: Container News


HMM eyeing reunion with Hyundai LNG Shipping

HMM is reportedly attempting to buy back the liquefied natural gas (LNG) shipping unit that South Korea’s flagship carrier divested back in 2014 when it began facing financial troubles.

The LNG shipping unit was sold to South Korean private equity firms IMM Private Equity and IMM Investment for US$375 million and renamed Hyundai LNG Shipping. In mid-2016, HMM came under the control of state policy lender Korea Development Bank after a debt-for-equity swap.

Amid the current LNG shipping boom, IMM now wants to cash out of its investment.

HMM, now with sufficient cash after the Covid-19-fuelled container shipping boom, has apparently expressed interest in acquiring Hyundai LNG, which has long-term shipping contracts with South Korea’s state-controlled LNG importer and terminal operator Korea Gas Corporation.

Following its separation from HMM, Hyundai LNG also diversified into liquefied petroleum gas (LPG) shipping, counting South Korea’s second largest LPG importer E1 Corporation as a customer. Hyundai LNG now owns 16 LNG carriers and six very large gas carriers.

In March, IMM invited tenders to acquire Hyundai LNG and at least 20 interested parties from the US, UK, Greece and Denmark have submitted bids. HMM, which has made known its intention to expand its bulk carrier and oil tanker fleets, is believed to have expressed its interest in taking Hyundai LNG back into its fold early this month.

In July 2022, HMM detailed a five-year strategy involving investing US$11.4 billion to grow its fleet. In addition, KDB and Korea Ocean Business Corporation, now HMM’s largest shareholders, have begun seeking buyers to offload their interest in the company.

South Korean media reports claim that IMM may be pressed to sell back Hyundai LNG to HMM, due to concerns of foreign interests controlling LNG flows to the country.

An HMM spokesperson told Container News that the company had not made a specific decision about acquiring Hyundai LNG.

News of HMM’s intention to re-enter the LNG segment coincides with reports that the company has acquired a medium-range products tanker, Petronia Pacific, from Singapore-based Pacific Carriers, for US$43 million.

Source: Container News



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