Carriers Add Capacity in Asian Trades

Thursday, January 06, 2005
Despite a shortage of containerships in the charter market, shipping lines have succeeded in adding very substantial capacity in the major Asian east/west trades, according to a report released this week by ComPair Data Inc., a shipping research and database provider based in Jacksonville, Fla.

Trade-wide eastbound transpacific capacity rose by 17 percent to about 298,0000 TEUs a week on Jan. 1 of this year, up from about 255,000 TEUs a week at the beginning of 2004.

Total westbound capacity in the Asia-to-Europe trade expanded by 18 percent to about 217,000 TEUs a week on Jan. 1, 2005, from about 183,000 TEUs in January of last year.

The annual increases in nominal ship capacity match relatively closely the growth of cargo volumes in these two trades. In the headhaul (ex-Asia) direction, cargo volumes in the transpacific trades are estimated to have increased by about 14 percent in 2004, while Asia-to-Europe box volumes are expected to have grown by about 17 percent.

"Shipping lines added five transpacific services and four Asia/Europe services before the 2004 peak season and have increased the average capacity of ships in both trades at the same time," said Hayes H. Howard, President of ComPair Data.

"Contrary to previous years, transpacific carriers have not, until now, suspended services launched before the peak season, with one exception," he added.

Capacity growth in the transatlantic trade, at 5 percent since last January, has been modest. Over the past four years, the North America/North Europe trade has continually seen only a marginal increase in supply, while the booming Asian trades have attracted most of the additional capacity. The ratio between the headhaul eastbound Pacific capacity and the headhaul westbound Atlantic capacity was 3:1 in January 2001, but this figure has now widened to 5:1 in January 2005, according to ComPair Data.

The January 2005 World Liner Supply report from ComPair Data also identifies, loop by loop, how individual carriers or alliances changed their vessel capacities in the transpacific and Asia-Europe trades.

On Jan. 1, liner shipping companies employed a total of 565 ships in the transpacific trade on 79 joint or individual liner services. At the same date, 433 vessels were deployed on 50 services in the Asia-Europe trade.

These are just some of the highlights from the latest World Liner Supply report, which tracks capacity, service and partnership changes for all liner carriers and their ships operating on 12 major trades worldwide.

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