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Airfreight rates benefited from false bargaining powers rather than any significant modal shift in the wake of the Hanjin crisis, with fewer shippers jumping modes than expected, according to Drewry.

While Drewry acknowledged a temporary modal shift, it said shippers’ flight to safety was to bigger container lines – one consultant estimated that Maersk alone took 19% of Hanjin’s Q4 volumes.

IHS Markit’s Global Trade Atlas database claims the volume of cargo carried by airfreight into the US was actually down marginally on 2015 to 2.5%, despite Asia-North America representing the South Korean carrier’s biggest tradelane.

However, Drewry noted, the demise of Hanjin coincided with a sharp hike in airfreight rates, and its Sea & Air Shipper Insight report recorded a 22% jump in transpacific eastbound rates in the three months after Hanjin collapsed.

This, the consultant said, was significantly faster than seen on the Asia-Europe trade.

But the report shows that any meaningful shift from container to air in the fourth quarter merely reflected a seasonal trend, rather than a seismic shift in the way shippers sought to do business.

“At least as far as the Asia to US trade is concerned, it appears that there was only limited mode shift as a direct consequence of Hanjin’s bankruptcy, but this event may have given airfreight carriers false bargaining power to raise prices,” said Drewry.

“The implication for container lines is that because they didn’t lose much cargo in the process, there won’t be a bonanza of returning business to compete for.”

Drewry said while Hanjin’s bankruptcy may have made a small contribution to stalling modal shift in 2016, it expected anxiety over container cargo security to subside and a resumption of the long-term trend.

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