Asia-US west coast rates are more than four times higher than this week in 2019
Record-high volumes on the US west coast have seen imports exceed 1m teu in nine of the 10 past months as America’s gateways report record volumes of boxes handled.
The highest imports volume ever was recorded in March, when 1.16m teu were imported; April’s volume was down slightly, at 1.1m teu. High retail sales in March and April were in part due to the distribution of stimulus cheques across the country and generally reflective of the economy’s continued recovery, although this is unlikely to increase further in May, according to Peter Sand, BIMCO’s chief shipping analyst, who is predicting volumes will remain strong in the coming months, as retailers restock inventories and possibly prepare early for the holiday season to avoid shortages later.
“Despite the continuing pandemic, most consumers are in good financial health and aren’t hesitating to spend,” commented Jonathan Gold, vice president for supply chain and customs policy at the National Retail Federation (NRF). “The cargo surge that began last fall doesn’t show any sign of stopping.”
“Updated guidance for fully vaccinated individuals will help further open the economy,” added NRF president and CEO Matthew Shay.
US-wide, the same volume trend holds; according to the monthly Global Port Tracker report released earlier this month by the NRF and Hackett Associates, US ports covered by Global Port Tracker – Los Angeles/Long Beach, Oakland, Seattle and Tacoma on the west coast, New York/New Jersey, Virginia, Charleston, Savannah, Port Everglades, Miami and Jacksonville on the east coast, and Houston on the Gulf Coast – handled 2.27m teu in March, up 21.2% from February. This was a record for a single month since the NRF began tracking imports in 2002.
Imports in the first half of 2021 are forecast by the NRF to be 12.7m teu, which puts 2021 on track to beat 2020’s full-year total of 22m teu, which itself was up 1.9% over 2019 despite the pandemic.
“This is turning out to be a year of super growth that will act as the driver of the global economy,” said Ben Hackett, founder of Hackett Associates.
BIMCO’s Sand speculated, though, that the inventory stocking happening now might dampen some of the higher demand in the usual Q3 peak season.
Judah Levine, research lead at Freightos, predicted a protracted peak season, commenting: “Though US retailers are now spending more on inventory than in 2019, those items continue to fly off the shelves, keeping inventory levels at record lows. This means that businesses may still struggle to avoid stockouts come the holiday season. It could also mean that even if consumer demand for goods declines as services rebound, retail restocking will keep ships full and rates up for some time longer.”
Asia-US west coast rates are more than four times higher than this week in 2019.
Evergreen takes the biggest boxship mantle away from HMM by just 28 teu
Evergreen’s 23,992 teu Ever Ace will deliver from Samsung Heavy Industries in July, with its recently confirmed nominal intake ensuring it surpasses HMM’s latest series of megamaxes by just 28 teu to take the mantle of the world’s largest boxship, a record that has been broken on an annual or even biannual basis for the last five years.
The ship, sporting a new green look, will be deployed on Evergreen’s CEM service connecting Asia with North Europe, according to Alphaliner.
The Ever Ace is the first of 10 in a series that Evergreen will receive from Samsung Heavy in South Korea and CSSC in China this year and next.
The Ever Ace features a new bulbless design and a hull with a bright green colour, a departure from previous Evergreen liveries.
Alphaliner describes the new Evergreen ship as coming with a highly-flared bow and a full width of 24 container rows in the first bay. Lashing bridges reach four tiers high with so-called Mickey Mouse ears into the fifth tier.
Containership size records have repeatedly been broken in recent years, climbing above the 20,000 teu mark for the first time in 2017. Boxships have more than tripled in size in terms of carrying capacity since the start of the century.