The sea container transport market is facing a complex and challenging environment. Bimco, a shipowning association, has recently revised its estimates for the trend of the industry in 2023 and 2024. While the global economic outlook has improved, the forecast for the demand for sea transport is more pessimistic for this year, but more optimistic for the next.
According to Bimco's revised estimates, container routes "outbound" and of regional scope will grow only by 1-2% in 2023, compared to the initial estimate of 3-4%. However, a recovery of 5-6% is expected for 2024, which is 2 percentage points more than the previous estimate. Bimco predicts that volumes will be negative for the first part of this year, but will start to rise again in the second half. As for 2024, there is a possibility that the increase in demand will be only 2.5-3.5%.
This evolution will be accompanied by an increase in the hold guaranteed by the entry into the sea of new ships. In 2023-2024, 4.9 million TEUs of new ships are expected to arrive, while demolitions will affect capacity by 1 million. According to Bimco, this will amount to +6.3% for the current year and +8.1% for the next. 65% of the growth of the global containership fleet will be due to the delivery of units of over 15,000 TEUs of capacity. This will involve the deployment of larger ships on routes that were previously serviced by smaller units. In parallel, port congestion will ease, retaining only 6% of global capacity in 2023 and 0% next year. Together, these two phenomena will lead to an increase in the supply of transport capacity in TEUs, exceeding the 2022 values by 11.3% this year.
However, Bimco's analysis admits that several factors could shift the relationship between supply and demand in one direction or the other. For example, cancellations of orders for new ships or delays in their delivery could impact the industry's recovery. On the other hand, slowdowns in browsing speed could also affect the market. Additionally, service reviews by the liners could rebalance the relationship between supply and demand, although this has not yet been observed.
Overall, the sea container transport industry is expected to face two challenging years, with a slow recovery in 2023 and an uncertain outlook for 2024. It will be crucial for companies to closely monitor market trends and adjust their strategies accordingly.