The shipping consultants Drewry are predicting that the westbound cargo growth in the Mediterranean-North America trade "is likely to remain poor, so more
schedules between the Mediterranean and ECNA (East Coast North America) will need to be
rationalized soon. Operating services in isolation, such Hapag-Lloyd’s
MGX schedule, and MSC’s loops A and B, appears to be a luxury that is no
The London-based company said in its Container Insight Weekly
publication that exports from the Mediterranean to North America declined 7 percent in April compared to March, down to 103,000 TEUs.
It noted "there was a similar downturn from Europe between March and April last year, which means that it could just be seasonal, with the first three months of the year being used by North American importers for re-stocking. If so, then May, June and July should experience another cargo build up, but still within the framework of the year’s overall imports ending up only slightly higher than in 2012.
"Ocean carriers appear to have been caught unawares by the downturn, as westbound vessel capacity was increased by 5.6 percent in April, compared to March, so average vessel utilisation dropped from 82 percent down to a very poor 72 percent, but the initiative may have been preparatory, bearing in mind the better seasonal months ahead. The tradelane remains difficult to read due to the large number of ways in which its vessels can be used to carry other cargo, including from the Indian Subcontinent and West Africa," Drewry said.
Eastbound, Drewry said cargo from North America to the Mediterranean fell by 7 percent between March and April, down to 84,000 TEUs, which was less than the 9 percent decline between the same two months of 2012. The total for the first four months of the year was still 9 percent more than the same period of 2012, which is surprising, given that large parts of the Mediterranean remain in recession, including France, Spain, Italy, Greece and Cyprus. It said some Eastern European countries, including Turkey and Russia, are "improving more positively."
Drewry said average eastbound vessel utilization slumped from 65 percent in March to only 58 percent in April. - Chris Dupin