Carriers have slashed capacity to meet reduced demand. On the Asia-Europe trade, that has seen deployed capacity fall back to below where it was six years ago.
Fewer but larger ships are plying the main lane Europe trade, but total capacity keeps falling.
The Ocean Alliance's larger vessels give it the lead in deployed capacity.
SERVICE changes, cancellations and blankings on the Asia-Europe trade lane have seen the total trade capacity on the main lane route reduced to levels not seen since 2014.
Figures compiled by Dynamar show that the three alliances that dominate the Asia-Europe trade — 2M, Ocean Alliance and The Alliance — between them operate 16 loops, three fewer than a year ago, following the removal of HMM’s standalone service and the suspension of one service each from 2M and The Alliance.
“Altogether, overall annualised trade capacity now stands at 9.3m teu, a reduction of 18% compared to a year ago,” Dynamar said.
“In reality, capacity is even lower, due to the cancellation of quite a large number of sailings.”
The reduction in sailings does not, however, directly relate to a reduction in capacity, as the size of vessels deployed on the trade lane has continued to rise.
“The average ship size went up by 1,400 teu to 16,600 teu, indicating that it is the smaller ships that are being phased out,” Dynamar said.
In July, for example, the Ocean Alliance had 68 vessels deployed on the Asia-Europe trade, compared with 72 by the 2M partners and 70 by The Alliance. But the larger average size of the Ocean Alliance vessels, at 17,900 teu, meant that the consortium had the most deployed capacity, at 1,219,100 teu.
But the annualised combined capacity of the three alliances now stands at 9.3m teu, compared with 11.3m teu this time last year.
“The (temporary) reduction of Europe-Far East services brought the annual trade capacity under that of 2014, certainly when taking into account that additional sailings are being stricken,” Dynamar said. “The average ships size, however, is the highest ever noted in this corridor”.
With volumes still down on where they were before the coronavirus pandemic took its toll on demand, further deployment of capacity on the Asia-Europe trade lane looks unlikely this year.