The container shipping industry has yet again had to navigate through another tumultuous 12 months as supply chains have had to absorb the shocks from some cataclysmic events. We have seen the collapse of Hanjin, continued merging of container shipping business – including the Japan's big three shipping groups, K Line, MOL and NYK integrating their shipping business and Maersk Line acquiring its rival Hamburg Süd towards the end of 2016 - low oil prices, sluggish cargo demand, continued over supply of trade capacity and freight rates falling to historic lows.
The fragility of the world economy has been further undermined with the UK “Brexit” vote and the new direction for US foreign and domestic policy following the presidential election and the potential return to isolationism and protectionism adds additional tiers to the ongoing uncertainty that has to be addressed. The World Trade Organisation has now forecast global trade to grow only by 1.7% in 2017, downgraded from a previous forecast of 2.8%.
However, thanks to improving freight rates and marginal increases in cargo volumes, indications are pointing to industry profits rising next year.
Any anticipated recovery will be slow and well below the heights seen in previous year but can the industry now begin to forward plan with a small sense of optimism.