03 September 2021


The Global Shippers’ Forum and MDS Transmodal issued on 1 September their latest Container Shipping Market quarterly review. Q2 2021 was the quarter that the impacts of the Ever Given’s closure of the Suez Canal was felt on schedules and port calls in Europe, North Africa and North America, but the effects are barely discernible in a globally consistent picture of rising rates, declining service and ships sailing at close to their maximum capacity.

The findings of the review show that global trade volumes saw a 4% increase in Q2 2021, returning close to pre-Covid levels of trend growth. While capacity also increased, it is still considered insufficient to meet demand. Performance indicators, including skipped ports, also compare poorly with pre-pandemic levels. Director of GSF James Hookham pointed out that shippers are facing "a meltdown of the container shipping market, with rates in the stratosphere, slots up for auction and service performance in the trash. The prospects for the coming peak season look grim."

It is also important to note that capacity shares based on vessel sharing agreements (or consortia) in some key markets now exceed 40%. The analysis shows that it exceeds the threshold for the application of the EU Consortia Block Exemption Regulation. James Hookman added: “Also at stake is the solvency of thousands of SMEs banking on the coming peak season to help get them through the Covid Crisis. Governments need to look closer and harder at a shipping market that is out of control!”.

Carrier profitability in the meantime is soaring and the review shows the continued growth of the average earnings per container carried compared to the unit costs of carrying that container, which have barely changed over the course of the past 18 months. Globally, carriers are earning more than twice per container than at the start of the pandemic.

The review is available via this link.