Friday, May 17, 2013

Vacation Got the Best of Me - Maersk Looks into A Dim Future for Containers

Ok, just for my regular readers, I am back.  Took a bit of a vacation and toured around Europe for a while.  Sorry for the lack of posts and I will begin getting back to my normal cadence.  Now on to business and the first one will be the state of ocean freight.

A recent article in the Wall Street Journal cited Maersk warning of subdued demand in ocean container traffic.  And, of course, I have been warning and talking about this and about the lousy economics of this industry since I published "The Sick State of Ocean Freight" back in March. An industry which is far over capacity is now launching new Mega ships and increasing the overall fleet size - not a formula for success.. unless.....

Maersk says they are overcoming the excess capacity by increasing rates.  Huh?  This is one of the few industries which, dare I say, colludes, and everyone knows it.  In fact, it is quasi legal so when you are negotiating don't necessarily expect the laws of economics to work.  We have all learned when supply exceeds demand prices go down.  According to the Wall Street Journal:
"Excess tonnage, estimated at 10% above current demand, has kept rates under pressure and all but seven of the biggest 30 players lost money in 2012. Cumulative losses over the past four years have run to about $7 billion."
It goes on to say that Maersk has said:
"Still, Maersk posted a better-than-expected first-quarter net profit as it pushed through higher prices to customers. It expects container transport demand to remain subdued this year amid challenging conditions.
Essentially Maersk is saying the customer will pay for empty ships through higher prices.  I am sure if they were under capacity and over demand they would say you will pay higher prices to "reserve a spot" on an already oversold ship.  Apparently the story goes not matter what is happening in the market place you will pay higher prices.

If you remember my multiple discussions on "Anchoring" you will see this activity in action.  They are, through these public statements trying to anchor the buyers thoughts.  Essentially start all conversations with the premise that rates are going up in some fashion and now it is just a question of how much.

Don't fall for it.  As i have said over and over again use the laws of economics, understand your lanes and understand the economics of your lanes and then use that as the starting position.  You will have a much better outcome.

1 comment:

  1. Hmmm, not sure it's as simple as that Kevin, Yes there is US-government sanctioned collusion on transpacific trades, but not on those to Europe, where it was made illegal and where Maersk is most exposed, where the spot market rules and where rates are currently below just the cost of bunker fuel, let alone the other operating costs. On Asia-Europe carriers appear to be playing chicken with each other