Far East to North America trade lane is best performer
Global container volumes fared better than expected, seen to fall less than 1.5% for entire 2020
Container shipping volumes fell just 1.7% in the first 11 months of 2020, as the industry proved remarkably resilient in terms of volumes and freight rates amid the COVID-19 crisis, according to the Baltic and International Maritime Council (BIMCO).
After a 5-million TEU (7.3%) drop in volumes in the first five months of the year, volumes were down by only 1.7%—a loss of 2.6 million TEUs—by the end of November, it noted.
Of the three largest trades, Far East to North America has been the best performing, up by 1.1 million TEUs (6.4%) in the first 11 months of the year.
“The last few months have been the strongest for this trade, managing to more than make up for lost volumes in the early months of the year. This has caused problems for supply chains as the rush of containers has overwhelmed some ports,” said BIMCO.
Though container volumes have been stronger in the last few months of 2020 than they were in 2019, both the intra-Asia and Far East to Europe trades remain in negative territory when looking at it on an accumulated basis: down by 1.3% and 5.3%, respectively, BIMCO said.
“BIMCO now expects global container volumes to have fallen by less than 1.5% in 2020, which is far better than what we anticipated when the pandemic raged in Q2, although even this figure hides how profitable a year it has in fact been for liner companies. Strong capacity management when volumes fell allowed them to minimize their loses, and they have since been able to cash in on low bunker prices and record high spot freight rates on many trades as volumes have improved,” said Peter Sand, BIMCO’s chief shipping analyst.
He said the coming quarters will see a strong focus on the repositioning of empties and evening out the imbalanced caused by the “stop-n-go demand” of 2020.
Furthermore, focus will now turn towards the Chinese New Year, which is set to be different fromany other in terms of both celebrations and exports.