Sector Development

Following a significant increase in container throughput in 2017, the market research institute Drewry expects the momentum to slow in 2018 with growth of 4.3 %. Growth will be driven in particular by the shipping regions of Asia (+ 4.5 %), Latin America (+ 4.6 %) and especially Africa (+ 6.1 %). Throughput growth in China – the Port of Hamburg’s most important shipping region – is expected to be slower than in the previous year but to remain robust at 5.5 %.

Container throughput growth in the European shipping regions is likely to remain moderate, but below the prior-year level. Scandinavia, the Baltic, the Eastern Mediterranean and the Black Sea are regarded as the main drivers. Growth rates on the North-West Europe and Western Mediterranean trades are expected to be somewhat slower.

Growth Expectations for Container Throughput

in %

 

2018

 

Trend vs. 2017

Source: Drewry Maritime Research, December 2017

World

 

4.3

 

Europe as a whole

 

3.6

 

North-West Europe

 

3.1

 

Scandinavia and the Baltic region

 

4.9

 

Western Mediterranean

 

2.9

 

Eastern Mediterranean and the Black Sea

 

5.1

 

Considering the capacities available at container terminals in the North Range and the Baltic Sea, competition between ports is likely to remain fierce in 2018. The container shipping market will continue to see a structural surplus of cargo space. According to estimates of the market research institute AXS Alphaliner, growth in total capacity of the container ship fleet will slow somewhat in 2018 as a result of declining orders from shipping companies and delayed deliveries. However, at 5.3 %, growth in total capacity of the container ship fleet will outpace global container volumes at the ports in the forecast period.

In order to stabilise the market amid this growing capacity surplus, the sector has been dominated by acquisitions and mergers as well as the formation of new alliances since 2015. This concentration process will continue in 2018. Following approval from the competition authorities in late November 2017, Maersk completed its takeover of Hamburg Süd and will continue to operate the shipping company as a separate brand. Exact details of the integration are not yet known. The merger of three Japanese shipping companies – NYK Line, MOL and K Line – to create Ocean Network Express (ONE) was also approved by the relevant anti-trust authorities. The joint venture is expected to start operations in April 2018. The ongoing consolidation process will lead to the pooling of container services and timetable changes.

In light of the unrelenting growth in ship sizes and the associated increase in container volumes per ship call, the pressure on terminals and hinterland transport systems will continue to rise. According to the most recent medium-term forecast on cargo and passenger transport in Germany issued by the Federal Ministry of Transport and Digital Infrastructure (BMVI) in summer 2017, the trend in 2018 will remain positive though somewhat less dynamic. The experts believe that transport volumes will increase by 0.8 % and traffic performance (transport volume multiplied by the distance travelled) by 1.3 %.