Subdued container growth continues

Global container volume grew 2.1% in December according to the latest CTS statistics. This is only marginally better than the 1.9% growth seen in November, and thus the low-growth regime continues in the container shipping markets.

For US imports, CTS shows 14.2% growth in November replaced by much lower 3.5% growth in December. Data from IHS Markit have previously shown 17% growth in December for US imports, but in this context it should be noted that IHS Markit is based on PIERS data stemming from US customs, and is therefore measured at time of arrival in the US, whereas CTS data is based on time of loading.

Hence, whilst the strong Pacific peak has certainly been of benefit to the carriers, it is worthwhile noting that the global demand growth continues at a relatively low level. With the container ship orderbook for 2019 standing at 6% of the total fleet size, this means we need to see both a pick-up in demand growth as well as in scrapping levels in order to improve the global supply/demand balance in 2019.

An added wild-card in here is the scrubber installations on a range of the big container vessels. As they spent several weeks in a yard each to be equipped with scrubbers, this will further serve to curb part of the capacity growth in 2019.

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