London : In 2015 container shipping volumes are forecast to grow by 5.5 per cent year on year across major trade lanes, which Drewry Maritime Research describes as a \"relatively positive\" year in its Outlook for Container Shipping. But Drewry expects the Asia-North Europe trade lane to grow only by 3.5 per cent, on the back of lower consumer demand. Critical to the supply-demand equation will be the delivery of new ultra-large container vessels (ULCV), with 53 ULCVs due to be delivered next year. A further 45 are scheduled to be added to the world fleet in 2016, according to Drewry\'s head of container research Neil Dekker, reported London\'s Loadstar. Mr Dekker said there appeared to be no loss of appetite for new containership orders with US$15.5 billion worth of new orders in 2013, and $10 billion this year. The money is being spent mostly on new ships of 13,000 TEU-plus.
Shipping lines were likely to make a \"big push\" for general rate increases between Asia-Europe in November, particularly, as sailings have been suspended during the slack winter season. Carriers are desperate to stop rate declines. Ahead of a raft of general rate increases (GRI) announced for early November the Shanghai Containerised Freight Index (SCFI) for spot cargo rates between Asia and North Europe were down by $8 on October 24 to a lowly sub-economic $697 per TEU. Drewry predicts that average rates will decrease by three to four per cent globally next year, so carriers will need to work even harder to reduce unit costs. Mr Dekker estimates that carriers will make a cumulative $5 billion in net profit this year, most of this will be earned by Maersk and the other top-ranked container lines, with the majority of the top 20 carriers still ending the year in the red. Meanwhile, the transpacific trade has been heavily influenced this year by the protracted US west coast labour contract negotiations, following the expiry of the previous master contract on July 1.
This has prompted nervous retailers to ship goods earlier this year in case a strike or lockout developed and ruined holiday trading. Forwarders have been gaining market share from shipping lines due mainly to their volume clout when negotiating with carriers, said Drewry Supply Chain Advisors chief, Philip Damas. He explained that smaller shippers recognised that they were not in the best position to take advantage of the market, although rates are not the only reason for an increase in business for forwarders as they have also been offering value-added services to shippers.