According to Alphaliner, the post-COVID-19 pandemic environment saw record port congestion, ship shortages and sky-high tariffs for Chinese export cargo, prompting container shipping lines to readjust their trade portfolios.
Although global container lines are very different: Asian lines tend to deploy a higher proportion of their fleets on trans-Pacific and intra-Asian services, while European-based carriers tend to have a larger presence on North-South routes, reports Alphaliner.
They mention that, in an annual comparison, most carriers have reduced the proportion of their fleets that trade between Asia and North America. The Asian airlines proved to be more conservative, while the big European airlines made more significant fleet changes.
Alphaliner highlights that when looking at the total liner fleet, 21% of all capacity is active between the Far East and Europe. This is not surprising, since almost all megamax vessels operate on this route, which requires a relatively large number of ships due to the long sailing distance.
It also denotes that trade between Asia and North America ranks second with 18% of the world fleet deployed here. Services related to Latin America and the Middle East/Indian Subcontinent share the third position with 13% each.
A closer look by operator shows that market leader MSC has an atypical business profile, dedicating most of its capacity to the Asia-Europe route (23%), but now has more tonnage operating on the subcontinent loops. Middle East/India (14%) and services to/from Africa (13%) than Asia-North. United States, where only 9% of the MSC fleet is marketed. This percentage is significantly lower than last year’s 16%.
However, MSC’s transatlantic fleet (10%) and its activities to/from Latin America (12%) are now more important than its transpacific operations. MSC is also the airline with the highest proportion of its fleet active in intra-European trade (7%), Alphaliner reports.
Maersk’s business profile is different with 22% of its fleet deployed in Asia-Europe and 18% in Asia-North America. However, its Latin American operations (18.4%) are slightly larger and come in second, which is of course related to the acquisition of Hamburg Sud.
Services to/from Latin America are the most important for Hapag-Lloyd in terms of fleet deployment. The merger with Chilean CSAV and the investment in new 13,000-ton neo-Panamaxes has brought Latin American trade to the number one position for the Hamburg-based line, while Asia-Europe was its top trade by capacity a year ago, mentions the article.
For its part, ALphaliner highlights that CMA CGM and Chinese COSCO dedicate most of their fleet to Asian exports to Europe and North America. COSCO has the highest profile in intra-Asia exchanges with 16% of capacity deployed there, while for the French airline Latin America-related services rank third.
Likewise, Evergreen and ONE put more for the services from East to West. Called more “conservative” carriers by Alphaliner, as they have not made significant changes to their commercial portfolios, despite the changing market. The percentage of the fleet engaged in trade between Asia and North America has remained exactly the same year after year.
HMM and Yang Ming represent two more Asian carriers with a very high focus on East-West trading. These lines deploy most of their fleet on THE Alliance services, although HMM does not offer any Transatlantic services, Alphaliner adds.
Additionally, Alphaliner articulates that ZIM’s business portfolio has changed substantially since the completion of the cooperation with 2M in Asia-Med and Far East-USWC. The Israeli airline still has its main focus on the Trans-Pacific (43%, down from 49% a year ago), but Asia-Europe capacity has increased from 0% to 7% of the fleet, as ZIM is now organizing your own ‘ZIM Med Premium Service instead of buying slots from Maersk and MSC.
Finally, Wan Hai is just outside our Top-10, but it is another line that has reduced its presence in Asia and North America (from 40% to 28% of its fleet). This means that the Taiwanese airline is now focusing primarily on Inner Asia with 36% of capacity deployed there, Alphaliner concludes.