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More void sailings could be on the horizon as China-US trade volumes fall


US imports from China fell by 9.3 per cent in September, marking a fifth consecutive month of declines year on year, while imports from Asia overall grew by just 0.6 per cent.

Carriers have responded by blanking 37 sailings in October and November after a weak peak season and without the spot rate spike they experienced during the 2018 peak season, reported IHS Media.

Imports from all of Asia were up two per cent in the first nine months of the year compared with the same period in 2018. However, imports from China declined by five per cent year to date.

The modest growth in imports from all of Asia demonstrates that the ability of some retailers and manufacturers to shift sourcing to other countries in North and Southeast Asia was limited. Furthermore, the front-loading of 2019 imports in autumn 2018 built up inventories at distribution warehouses, preventing those merchandise imports from being imported in early 2019.

Imports from Asia rose by 1.1 per cent in January, then fell 13.6 per cent in February and 9.7 per cent in March, year on year.

Total US containerised imports from the world rose each month this year except in February, when the impact of factory shutdowns in Asia over the Lunar New Year holiday was felt, so a shift of sourcing to non-Asian countries may also be occurring.

Given the downward momentum in imports this year, over-capacity in the eastbound transpacific trades could worsen. To stop freight rates from dropping in the final months of the year, carriers may have no choice but to blank individual sailings and suspend entire vessel strings as the trade enters the slack winter period.

THE alliance of Hapag-Lloyd, Yang Ming, and Ocean Network Express (ONE) is suspending a service from Central and South China to the US east coast from November until March 2020.

Shipping lines continue to anticipate that imports from China will rise in November because a fourth round of tariffs is due to be implemented on December 15. Those duties on US$300 billion of imports will hit a number of consumer products that have not yet been under tariff.

Global Port Tracker, published by the US National Retail Federation and Hackett Associates, forecasts that imports in November will rise by 8.8 per cent, but then drop by 9.8 per cent in December year on year.

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