This is a new year. A new beginning. And things will change.

2018: The turning point for liner shipping?

How much has really changed and how much is likely to change are timely questions to ask as 2018 begins, following the wild ride of the top container carriers shrinking by eight in two years and heralding the potential — but still only that — for a different industry to emerge. A perfect industry would be one that overcomes, or at least restrains its self-destructive instincts and joins the ranks of those devoted to creating value for customers.

For many who have watched carriers engage in irrational behavior for decades, nothing has changed despite consolidation, and it seems nothing will ever change. The cultures, agendas, and governance of major carriers are so divergent, and fear of antitrust authorities so great, that the inevitable decisions, such as those to order much larger ships, will be those that optimize the individual carrier at the expense of the industry and its customers.

But whether they can break the cycle, several carriers through recent statements and actions are signaling they see the potential for a different future and are acting to achieve it. Now is the best moment to rethink the future.

Among the very different initiatives (for a container line) lines want to work a lot more on offering a wider array of products and on developing outside just the simply ocean product. From a reefer perspective, Easyfresh shall work with some carriers in said direction.

Containerized trade in 2017 grew at the strongest pace in about a decade, absorbing much of the idle fleet; the order book as a percentage of the existing fleet despite the MSC and CMA CGM orders is 20 percent, just 3 percent above last year, when the metric hit its lowest level since 2002, according to IHS Markit.

But all that said, the legacy of self-destructive behavior, particularly in regard to pricing, haunts the industry. Carriers have little track record of self-policing in pursuit of overall industry gains. So it is a good moment to see if this time is different or not.”



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