Asia to Australasia container traffic experienced its first quarterly slump in at least five years, falling by 11 percent in the second quarter, shipping consultancy Drewry said.
The slowdown affected both the North Asia and Southeast Asia export markets. After six months trade from North Asia to Australasia was down by 3.5% to 773,000 TEU, while from Southeast Asia the slide was even steeper with container shipments down by 7.5% to 345,000 TEU.
Combined, the total southbound trade experienced close to a 5% slump in the first half of 2017.
Although the deterioration in container traffic along this corridor started early this year, things have gotten much worse of late with woeful returns for May and June accelerating the trend line downwards towards zero.
“Unless there is a drastic reversal, at the current rate the southbound trade will register an annual decline for the first time in at least five years,” according to Drewry.
The pick-up in Asia to Australia spot rates in August offers hope of a wider recovery. Nonetheless, this year looks certain to end with lower volumes.
Despite the weakness in demand, carriers have resisted making sweeping changes in capacity. Very little has happened on the supply side since May, when Hamburg Süd, Maersk Line, MOL and MSC started a new NE Asia-Oceania service (YoYo/CAE/Panda).
Net capacity on that slightly more resilient leg has been kept remarkably steady since that service launch and forward schedules for September indicate that there will be around 8% more slots available than there were in the same month last year. In the weaker Southeast Asia corridor there has at least been some remedial action with net capacity scheduled to be down by around 10% y/y next month.