peak season
Photo: Ironjohn,

A recent survey of freight forwarders found that, although over two-thirds of respondents were optimistic of a container demand recovery this year, half of those polled had no clear idea of a timeline.

Online container logistics platform Container xChange surveyed 406 freight forwarders for its June forecaster insight, with 69% of respondees saying they were “hopeful” of a demand recovery this year, but only 18% expected a pick-up in the next one to three months.

“51% are ‘guestimating’, without a clear outlook of the timeline for a container demand bounce-back,” said the Container xChange report.

Indeed, this mirrors the general view of ocean carriers that are constantly monitoring shipping orders for signs of a resurgence in demand, but so far not seeing anything substantive.

And Christian Roeloffs, CEO and co-founder of Container xChange, said: “There are enough and more reasons to be pessimistic. With the peak season coming, the industry sentiment is negative.

“Both the US and Eurozone markets are experiencing disturbances, contributing to a significant loss in consumer confidence, creating a ripple effect. Since the pent-up demand observed in late 2021, the industry is waiting for a demand comeback, which seems less likely in the coming peak season.”

And supporting the expectation of a modest peak season is softness in demand for equipment, which is causing average prices  of containers around the world to continue to decline.

“Container prices generally surge during the preparation for the peak season. So far, these prices have failed to pick up,” said the report. “A study of average container prices on the Container xChange platform indicates a disappointing revival of demand.”

Nevertheless, carriers are still not yet ready to write off this year’s peak season – some lines suggesting it will arrive later than normal, particularly due to the absence of supply chain congestion and availability of space on export loaders from Asia.

Hapag-Lloyd’s CEO Rolf Habben Jansen is one such optimist. During his company’s Q1 earnings presentation last month he said: “I would expect that in the second half of this year that we will see some growth some growth year on year.”

Meanwhile, carriers, forwarders and shippers attending the annual Multimodal show at Birmingham’s NEC this week will be keen to take away an update on market conditions. One UK-based shipper told The Loadstar he could not relate to “all the doom and gloom going around the liner sector”.

“Eventually inventories will need replacing, and I can see some retailers catching a cold this year as they don’t have updated stock in their warehouses,” said the contact. “Consumers will still spend this year – they might be more particular how they use their money, and it won’t be on last year’s products.”


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