Ocean cargo/global logistics: Transpacific volumes reflect down economy
Thursday, 19 March 2009 09:57


Patrick Burnson -- Executive Editor -- Logistics Management, 3/18/2009

As carriers prepare to enter the new Transpacific contracting season on 1 May 2009, drastic capacity adjustments have been made to reflect the decline in volumes. According to a new trade survey done by ASX-Alphaliner in London, average weekly capacity in the Far East to North America trade has been reduced by 13 percent in March 2009 compared to October 2008. For the first quarter, capacity has been reduced by 8 percent in January-March 2009 compared to the previous quarter.

 “A significant number of the ships displaced have been sent into lay-up by the carriers as the industry grapples with the most serious downturn in its history,” said analysts. “Industry players have warned that rates in the Transpacific trade could fall dramatically, mirroring the rate reductions already seen on the Asia-Europe tradelane.”

Based upon data from AXS-Alphaliner,there are 60 dedicated liner services on the Far East to North America trade as at March 2009, down from 70 services in October 2008. 14 services have been withdrawn within the last six months while four new services were introduced, to partially replace the strings axed.

This news came as scant surprise to the officials at the Port of Long Beach, which had issued an earlier forecast…equally dismal.

“The numbers are now showing what we've been seeing for the past few months -- fewer ships, fewer containers and most troubling, less work for those in port-related businesses," said Richard D. Steinke, the port’s executive director.Port shipping terminals moved 318,042 twenty-foot equivalent container units (TEUs) in February. Compared to February 2008, imported containers dropped 43.3 percent to 149,299 TEUs, and containers bound for export were down 37 percent to 92,781 TEUs. Empty containers, most of which are sent overseas to be refilled with products, were down 36.3 percent to 75,962 TEUs.

When will volume levels be restored? Tough question, said analysts. In an interview with LM, port spokesman Art Wong said that throughput figures are difficult to project.

“It’s really an macro-economic problem,” he said. “But the port is planning a major forecasting meeting next month, and we hope to get some news that will suggest a timeline for recovery.”