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TSA lines foresee flat growth in first half '02

Member container shipping lines of the Transpacific Stabilization Agreement (TSA) operating in the trade lane from Asia to the US held CEO-level meetings in Singapore in December, continuing to evaluate their positions and options in a seriously weakened cargo market.

Carriers were already reeling from the growing global economic downturn during Q3 2001, and the shocking events of September 11 have disrupted trade and commerce to an even greater extent. The lines now expect flat cargo growth for the second half of 2001 and much of the first half of 2002.

Overall market trends, plus the delivery of a new round of larger ships intended to meet long-term trade growth, have placed increased pressure on scheduled container services in terms of vessel utilization, operating costs and rates. Lines say they intend to take a comprehensive, multi-pronged approach to restore their balance sheets to reasonable levels in coming months, in order to sustain service quality and schedule reliability.

But carriers are also advising that, after steady declines in freight rates during 2001, some form of revenue restoration will necessarily be a key element in their 2002-03 contract negotiations. Additional details, they said, will be announced in due course.

TSA comprises 14 major container shipping lines serving the trade from ports and inland points in the US.