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Deeper capacity cuts required

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What should have been acceptable ship utilisation figures last year didn’t prevent spot rates from falling to historic lows. Carriers will need to intensify their capacity management tactics in 2016 if they are to reverse the trend.

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A few weeks ago we reviewed the demand story of 2015 for the trades covered in Container Insight Weekly and for this week’s analysis we are taking a look at supply side of the equation to see how full ships were last year.

The immediate answer is that they were actually pretty close to full with ship utilisation on headhaul East-West services averaging 87% over the course of the year. This was down on 93% ship utilisation for 2014 as reported in our most recent Container Forecaster report, but nonetheless the decrease was not of the magnitude that can fully explain the rates blood-bath that ensued.

Considering the seasonal peaks in volumes, carriers did a reasonable job of matching supply with demand on a monthly basis. The above graph shows that after aggregating the volumes and slot count for the six trades that ship utilisation was kept within a narrow 10-point spread between a low of 83% (February and November) and a high of 93% (August).

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Simon Heaney

Simon Heaney

Senior Manager, Supply Chain Research