Author: Miao Qi

  "Currently, there are sufficient storage boxes in various storage yards and terminals. This year's Spring Festival holiday is early and the start of work is late, which will definitely affect the volume of goods." Li Mu (pseudonym), the person in charge of a freight forwarding company in Zhejiang, told that the same period last year Than, they are no longer busy after starting work this year.

  From "one box is hard to find" to "ships waiting for goods", and now the major ports are full of empty containers, the cycle of shipping from shortage to surplus is faster than people expected.

And a large number of new ships will usher in the beginning of concentrated launch this year.

  People in the industry believe that it is hard to say whether the shipping industry will usher in a long downturn, but in the next few years, the shipping industry will most likely not be very optimistic.

But there will still be a relatively high season this year.

  Behind the pile of empty boxes

  In Li Mu's view, the accumulation of empty containers is not only due to the cyclical reason that the supply chain has yet to recover after the festival, but also due to the release of the epidemic at the end of last year, which caused many production companies to take early holidays and reduce raw material inventories. Therefore, all procurement and production plans are moving forward. Special factors for postponement.

  According to another freight forwarder, generally one and a half months after the Spring Festival, the container shipping market will gradually recover.

Affected by multiple adverse factors since the second half of 2022, it will take at least two months in 2023 to see the market recover.

  The fundamental reason for the accumulation of empty containers is that, on the one hand, the slowdown in global trade growth has led to a contraction in demand, and on the other hand, a large number of new containers have flowed into the market during the previous surge in freight rates, and the supply has doubled.

According to public data, in 2021, under the booming container shipping market, more than 7 million TEUs of containers will be produced globally, which is nearly three times that of conventional years.

Superimposed on the aforementioned cyclical and special factors, the oversupply has become particularly obvious during this Spring Festival.

  According to the latest data from Container xChange, a global container trading platform, in the sixth week of 2023 (February 5-11), the CAx (Container Availability Index) of Shanghai Port’s 40-foot container was as high as 0.64, which has been above 0.6 for 11 consecutive weeks.

When the value of CAx is greater than 0.5, it means that there is surplus container equipment.

  The recently released Drewry World Container Index showed that for the first time in the 30 months since July 30, 2020, the index fell below the $2,000 per 20-foot TEU mark.

The Global Spot Freight Composite Index is currently at $1,997.22 per 20ft TEU and will peak at over $10,300 in September 2021.

  According to the weekly report on China's export container transportation market released by the Shanghai Shipping Exchange on February 11, the recovery of China's export container transportation market after the Spring Festival holiday is not satisfactory. The freight rate in the ocean shipping market continued to decline, and the composite index continued to decline.

On February 10, the Shanghai Export Container Composite Freight Index released by the Shanghai Shipping Exchange was 995.16 points, down 1.2% from the previous period.

  More serious than the oversupply of containers is the overcapacity of ships.

  "There must be a surplus of containers in the shipping industry, but the assets of containers are scattered, and the assets are easier to dispose of and have wider uses, so even if the impact of the surplus is not too big, but the ships cannot be hidden after they are built, and they still need to be maintained. "Chen Yang, editor-in-chief of Xinde, a professional shipping information consulting platform, told China Business News that not only the container index has fallen to its lowest point, but the freight rates on some important routes have also fallen to pre-epidemic levels or even lower.

And starting this year, a large number of new ships will be delivered, and there will be more in the next year or the next.

This will also make the shipping industry in the future, "How good it was before, how bad it may be in the future."

  However, in order to dynamically balance supply and demand, Chen Yang said that some shipowners and shipping companies are already dealing with some old ships. There will be more ships sent for demolition", at the same time, the shipping speed of containers this year will be relatively low.

  In addition to the fall in spot rates, long-term freight rates also saw record falls, according to freight benchmarking platform Xeneta.

Xeneta recently reported that the average long-term contract rate fell by 13.3% in January.

  Maersk also issued a warning that its net profit is expected to decline by as much as 93.5% year-on-year in 2023.

According to Maersk's 2022 annual report, the company's revenue will increase by 32% to US$81.5 billion in 2022, and its profit before interest and taxes (EBIT) will increase by 57% to US$30.9 billion.

Although the global economic slowdown will lead to weakness in the market, especially in the ocean freight market, Maersk will continue to seek growth opportunities in its logistics business and terminal business.

In this context, Maersk expects full-year earnings before interest and taxes (EBIT) to be between US$2 billion and US$5 billion in 2023.

  When is the peak season this year?

  Although the overall situation is not optimistic, there will still be a relatively peak season this year.

  "It is expected to continue to fall in a short period of time after the Spring Festival." Chen Yang pointed out that there will definitely be a so-called more prosperous period this year.

With the change of seasons, the market in summer and autumn is relatively prosperous. In addition, China's epidemic prevention and control and the introduction of a series of economic stimulus measures this year will bring continuous benefits to the shipping and foreign trade industries.

  Wei Ran, head of the performance logistics and customs affairs department of Alibaba International Station, told Yicai Global: "As the benchmark for ocean freight rates in the US market, long-term contracts between general shipping companies and major customers are signed before the end of April each year. It will take effect on January 1.” At that time, the spot freight rate in the market will fluctuate based on the contracted price.

Judging from the speed of recovery on the demand side, it is expected that this year's watershed will occur around June.

  In Wei Ran's view, the freight rate and cargo volume in the shipping market have experienced drastic fluctuations during the epidemic, coupled with the gradual launch of new ships, the market will usher in a restructuring.

Shipping-related companies have to take two steps. One is to pay attention to the trend of overseas production capacity and supply chains moving to Southeast Asia. capacity and increase core barriers, “Chinese merchants have the ability to organize goods and supply chain services, but low-value-added goods do not necessarily come from China, that is, more and more goods and services will be separated, forming low-added goods. Value products are provided by China for trade services, and overseas for the division of labor in processing and manufacturing.”

  As a B2B cross-border e-commerce platform in China, Alibaba International Station itself provides service trade for goods traders, and the platform will increase investment in logistics services this year.

In February of this year, the Yiwu central warehouse of Alibaba's international station logistics service was launched, and additional central warehouses will be planned nationwide.

  Wang Tiantian, General Manager of China Suppliers and Cross-border Supply Chain of Alibaba International Station, pointed out that the development of foreign trade is entering the "era of high-quality growth" from the "era of traffic growth".

Logistics, as an important part of delivery performance, has also changed from the delivery certainty guarantee of "freight skyrocketing" and "one box is hard to find" during the epidemic to today's cost-effective services. For end-to-end services, the second is to build a decentralized network, return to localization, improve efficiency, and find growth in the stock.”

  Wang Tiantian believes that China's foreign trade has achieved continuous development during the epidemic, and this part of the increase will not completely ebb this year.

At the same time, the upward trend of China's export products and services to higher added value, which can be seen from the increase in the unit price of goods, will continue.

  Li Xingqian, director of the Foreign Trade Department of the Ministry of Commerce, said at a press conference on February 2 that, on the whole, China's foreign trade will reach a new height in 2022, releasing new momentum and making new contributions.

At present, the risk of world economic recession is rising, the growth of external demand has slowed down significantly, and the international supply chain structure is also accelerating the reconstruction. The environment for foreign trade development is extremely severe.

In 2023, we will make greater efforts to promote the stable scale and optimal structure of foreign trade, and stabilize the supporting role of exports in the national economy.

  According to data released by the National Bureau of Statistics on January 31, in January this year, the Manufacturing Purchasing Managers Index (PMI) was 50.1%, an increase of 3.1 percentage points from the previous month, rising above the critical point, and the level of manufacturing prosperity rebounded significantly.

However, Hongta Securities pointed out that the manufacturing new export order index was 46.1%, which was below the line of prosperity and decline, and only increased by 1.9 percentage points from the previous month.

  At a press conference held by the State Council Information Office on January 13, Lu Daliang, spokesperson of the General Administration of Customs, said that the current foundation for my country's economic recovery is not yet solid, the external environment is turbulent, and the downward pressure on the world economy is increasing. There are still many difficulties and challenges in the development of foreign trade.

While facing up to difficulties and challenges, we must also see that my country's economy is resilient, has great potential, and is full of vitality. The fundamentals of long-term improvement remain unchanged. The economy is expected to rebound in general in 2023. We must strengthen our confidence in promoting foreign trade to stabilize its scale and optimize its structure. .