Two of the world's top liner executives have in the past week acknowledged demand for liner carrier services on the major east-west trades may never return to the glory days of the mid-2000s.
Last week, APL President Ken Glenn told a liner shipping conference in Singapore the industry should get accustomed to annual growth in the 5 percent to 6 percent range rather than the 9 percent to 10 percent seen for much of the previous decade.
"There is not another China," Glenn said at the Containerisation International's
Global Liner Shipping Conference in Asia. "And the main growth in the future will not be in the major line haul trades."
Also last week, Maersk Group Chief Executive Officer Nils Andersen told Reuters
that debt-ridden economies and Europe and North America have fundamentally changed the business for liner carriers.
"We see the U.S. actually being in recovery ahead of Europe, though that doesn't mean it will return to the glory days," he said. "People are worried and there's good reason for that, because the economies are over-leveraged. If you look at the foreign debt situation of the U.S. it's enough to make anybody scared and the deficit of the government is just mind-blowing. I don't think we'll be in this crisis forever, but at least for Europe, it will take a couple of years to get out of it."
Andersen, like Glenn, said the growth will come from middle class expansion in emerging markets.
Meanwhile, Andersen said in the interview with Reuters
he was hopeful Maersk's competitors would toe the line on rates.
"I suspect that when people realize that they're not losing market share, but that it's just a bad market, they will change behavior" he said. "That's anybody's guess and it may also be wishful thinking."
Finally, Andersen said Maersk has no plans to order more vessels. The global order book for new vessels is at a fairly low level, relative to existing capacity, but there has been a dearth of orders since a ship-ordering boom in late 2010 and early 2011, which includes Maersk's order of 20 18,000-TEU vessels, the largest ever ordered. - Eric Johnson