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Ocean carriers get marginal impact from capacity cuts

Total container capacity supply by ocean carriers on the three main east/west shipping trades rose by an average of 5% in 2001 despite the recent attempts of several carriers to remove excess capacity, according to a report released this week by ComPair Data Inc., a global ocean shipping research and information technology firm based in Jacksonville, Florida.

Several ocean carriers in the transpacific and Asia/Europe routes made capacity cut-backs in the last three months of 2001, according to the January 2002 World Liner Supply report from ComPair Data, leading to an average 1% reduction in east/west capacity. But those reductions did not outweigh the addition of substantial new vessel capacity early last year or the ongoing expansion of other carriers, which led to the overall annual capacity increase.

Results of the January 2002 World Liner Supply report show that transpacific shipping lines have expanded capacity by 3% between January 2001 and January 2002. Transpacific capacity currently amounts to over 196,000 TEUs a week (equivalent to a yearly one-way capacity of 10.2mn TEUs), down 6% from the corresponding figures in October 2001, but up from capacity offered in January 2001 (see table below).

"Capacity growth has slowed down, but there are still concerns about a further rise in over-capacity in the major trades," said Hayes Howard, President of ComPair Data. "Intermediaries, shippers and carriers are now carefully watching the competitive pressures and vessel delivery and lay-up trends that are driving over-capacity, as this will have a major impact on the bottom lines of their providers and, ultimately, their own companies."

In the Asia/northern Europe/Mediterranean trade, ocean carriers continued to add capacity in 2001, reaching a total one-way capacity of about 143,000 TEUs a week (equivalent to 7.4mn TEUs a year) at the beginning of January.

The alliances that have added the most capacity during the last 12 months are:

  • COSCO/"K" Line/Yang Ming alliance in the Asia/Europe trade (+35%) and transpacific trade (+18%);

  • Evergreen/Lloyd Triestino group in the transpacific (+20%);

  • New World Alliance (APL, Hyundai and MOL) in the Asia/Europe trade (+21%); and

  • Mediterranean Shipping Co. in the transatlantic (+7%).

World Liner Supply tracks capacity, service and partnership changes for all liner carriers and their ships operating on 12 major trades worldwide. ComPair Data provides a free sample of the World Liner Supply reports and further information that can be downloaded from http://www.compairdata.com/wls.htm.

Weekly capacity (adjusted)
January '01
October '01
January '02
% change Oct. 01 to Jan. 02
% change Jan. 01 to Jan. 02
Total Asia/North America trade
190,999
207,809
196,330
-6%
3%
Total Asia/north Europe/Med trade
130,082
137,216
142,576
4%
10%
Total North America /north Europe trade
60,425
61,594
61,623
0%
2%
Total of 3 main east/west trades
381,506
406,619
400,529
-1%
5%
Source : ComPair Data Inc., January 2002 World Liner Supply report

Note : the October 2001 to January 2002 percentage change figures measure the change over the three-month period and are not annualized.