Growing exports, particularly from China and Southeast Asia, will fuel a boom in international container shipping volumes in the next four years, shipping experts said yesterday.
But while ocean carriers such as Orient Overseas Container Line are set to place orders for more mega box carriers, they are expected to find trading conditions difficult, the experts added.
Rajiv Biswas, chief Asia economist for forecasting company IHS Global Insight, said: "Emerging Asia will be the fastest growing region", with the mainland economy set to climb by 7 to 8 per cent a year over the next decade. Economic growth in the Asia-Pacific would be about 6.5 per cent annually up to about 2020, he said.
This expansion would fuel growth in seaborne bulk and container cargoes, Biswas told about 90 participants at the TOC container supply chain Asia conference yesterday.
He said global container volumes hit 125 million 20-foot equivalent units (teu) last year. Hong Kong and Shenzhen ports handled 45 million teu of that. Biswas said total volumes would grow to 145 million teu next year and 151 million teu in 2015.
Global box volumes were expected to increase by 3 per cent this year, followed by growth of 5.5 per cent a year in 2015 and 2016, Biswas said. He added that "intra-Asia trade would grow even more rapidly" by about 4.5 per cent this year, buoyed by the impact of free-trade agreements.
Alan Murphy, chief operating officer at SeaIntel Maritime Analysis, said the growth in container ship capacity, which is expected to top 9.4 per cent this year, would slow to 1.7 per cent by 2015.
Murphy, speaking at the same event, said the drive towards larger boxships on Asia-Europe trades would see a surge in orders for more efficient ultra-large container ships.
He forecast orders for up to 165 boxships over 13,000 teu would be placed by 2015, of which 25 had been ordered since January.
Despite the growth in box volumes, Murphy said this year was poised to be "highly challenging" for container lines as they try to increase freight rates as shipping capacity rises.