According to MANA, the container shipping market will become regionalised much quicker than people expect, Mr Rex told an industaudience at Marine Money in New York.
Manufacturing is being moved closer to consumers due to technological innovations in robotics, artificial intelligence and 3D printing, with a long-term move of manufacturers to Southeast Asia and China. China has been the largest investor in robotics in the past few years, he said.
This is good for regional container lines that operate smaller vessels, with the long-term outlook for smaller container vessels much better than their larger cousins.
Mr Rex expects to see a similar move in the US and Europe, increasing regionalisation of the container trades.
“I find it difficult to see the way we operate these large containerships on longhaul trades will continue,” he said.
“The long-term outlook for large containerships is structurally reduced. We are heading for a difficult future.”
Overall global trade volumes would remain subdued, Mr Rex said. He expects global seaborne trade volume growth of 1% between 2016 and 2030 as the ‘buy side’ – ageing consumers in the developed world – retire and change purchasing habits to services and domestically produced goods, alongside the growth in technologies and nearshoring.
The shipping industry needs to adapt to this new situation. “We need a changing infrastructure. The problem is that all ship segments are scalable for growth.
“We could be heading for a structure overcapacity. Something needs to change.”