Cosco Shipping and Bolloré Logistics have entered a new partnership to “densify” commercial relations, as forwarders continue to get closer to carriers.

The news comes as the French logistics operator reported a 4% upturn in sea freight volumes for 2018.

Bolloré’s deputy chief executive, Philippe Labonne, said: “The two companies, partners for over 20 years, want to densify their commercial relations while exploring new opportunities for cooperation in transport, logistics and port infrastructure.”

Bolloré’s full-year results show air freight volumes growing at 3.9%, comparable with the global average reported by IATA this year.

And looking ahead, the company said it was forecasting growth of 3.7% in air freight, but a slowdown in sea freight growth, anticipating something in the region of 3%.

Sea freight procurement director Anne-Sophie Fribourg added: “December saw a record surge of over 30%, that’s 9% higher than in 2017, so we ended the year with nice momentum.

“Activity is expected to calm, as usual after the Chinese New Year, but barring any negative developments we should see modest 3% growth against 6% capacity increases in 2019.”

However, the company acknowledged trade tensions between the US and China were “potential wild cards” that could affect export patterns. Furthermore, it warned there could be a continuation in the slowdown in economic growth, with both the IMF and UN lowering their forecasts for this year.

“Many observers fear the record expansion of the US economy is running out of steam and could reverse, and signs of decelerating are visible elsewhere,” said the company.

“Figures released in early February show Eurozone growth dropped to 1.8% in 2018 compared with 2.4% the previous year;  and while official statistics showed China’s economy still booming with a 6.6% advance, it was the smallest increase since 1990.”

Focusing on maritime activity, Ms Fribourg said implementation of the IMO’s low-sulphur fuel cap would have a “major” effect on rates. She said carriers were preparing supplemental charges of $120 to $160 per teu to pass on the extra costs involved to their customers.

“As always, just how those are applied will be shaped by supply and demand factors, and whether carriers prioritise margins or volumes,” she explained.

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