Logistic News

Asia-Pacific Container Logistics Update: Global economy expands but constraints remain

As Lunar New Year is over, we look at market trends and the outlook for ocean freight and inland transportation in our latest Asia-Pacific update. 

Anna-Sophia Metzel, Curtis Doyle, 11 February 2022

After another year of difficulty and disruption, all eyes are on the upcoming trends for logistics in 2022. In the Asia-Pacific (APAC), the Lunar New Year has brought early obstacles for businesses to accommodate and overcome. Meanwhile Covid-19 cannot be forgotten and will continue to present challenges. 

Elsewhere, however, there are signs of renewed life – with the global economy expanding and container volumes returning to trend levels. This could mean opportunities for your business, so let’s get into the details.

Chinese economy expanding

In January, global Purchasing Manager’s Index (PMI) figures were released, showing that manufacturing sentiment remained upbeat in the fourth quarter, despite challenges from delivery changes to Covid-19.  

The PMI is based on a monthly survey of supply chain managers across 19 industries and paints a picture of the prevailing economic trends in manufacturing. China’s PMI nudged higher in December for a second straight month, showing the economy was in expansion mode ahead of the Lunar New Year holiday this month. This is backed up by China’s 4% GDP growth and 4.3% manufacturing increase in the fourth quarter of 2021.  

Container volumes to grow, but challenges remain

This optimism is a welcome relief in the APAC region and is shown in forecasts for containerised cargo volumes this year which are projected to grow, despite risks to global trade. But challenges remain. Recurrent Covid-19 flareups in the Greater China region – worsened by the new Omicron variant - are disrupting wider supply chains. The impacts on container loading and discharge operations at ports (like Ningbo, Tianjin, Shenzhen, Dalian and Guangzhou) have been less severe. But district-level lockdowns and mass testing are leading to warehouse closures and trucker shortages. 

What is the outlook for ocean freight logistics?

Looking at the broad ocean freight outlook, container delays and equipment shortages will continue to present themselves as a challenge to your logistics.  

We are anticipating a strong rebound after Lunar New Year on most trades as demand remains strong and capacity is tied up due to congestion delays at ports in North America and Europe. With Omicron cutting workforce numbers in some places by up to 25%, we expect this situation to continue for some time. However, our schedule reliability remains best-in-class and we’re working to improve it even further. 

‘’COVID continues to impact ports and supply chains in the Asia Pacific region. On a positive note, rather than closing ports entirely, we have seen testing regimes for truck drivers and terminal workers, in ports like Ningbo and Tianjin, having an impact in improving efficiency. This is an optimistic development, which enables us to limit the impact for our customers. Maersk will continue investing in reliability as our number one priority to ensure as much stability for our customers as at all possible.’’

Anne-Sophie Zerlang Karlsen
Anne-Sophie Zerlang Karlsen, Head of Asia Pacific Ocean Customer Logistics

Key destination updates for ocean freight

  • Asia to North Europe – Capacity remains tight due to strong demand pre-Lunar New Year, though demand levels should recover quickly. 

  • Asia to North America – As noted in our last transpacific update, capacity loss due to port congestions is expected to continue. North American ports are not likely to improve soon, so if you’re using this route, we suggest increasing your lead times between ETA and actual departure. 

  • Asia to Latin America – Capacity is expected to remain unchanged here and service reliability has improved, with fewer port omissions. However, Covid surges could constrain logistics supply and capacity. 

  • Asia to Africa – For West Africa, capacity remains tight especially into the northern range of Africa.  

  • Asia to Oceania - The current outlook is that capacity pressure is expected to ease. But with uncertain waiting times in Australian ports, slide sailings may continue if port omissions and changes in rotations are not able to mitigate increased waiting times. 

What is the outlook for inland transportation?

Inland transportation is a vital cog in the container logistics supply chain, but it has been disrupted increasingly over the last twelve months. In Greater China, overall capacity is tight on all modes of transportation. This is partly due to the past Lunar New Year holiday, but truck movements are also heavily dependent on local pandemic policies, adding a level of uncertainty. 

  • In Japan, demand for trucking services from Yokohama to Tokyo is expected to surge 50% due to restrictions in place at Tokyo port. Meanwhile, looking at Vietnam, Cambodia and Myanmar, demand for cross-border rail freight between Vietnam and China is expected to soar due to congestion at road crossings.  

  • In Indonesia, inland export demand is trending up for the next three months due to pre-Ramadan seasonality. However, the support for demand is good, thanks to an improving equipment situation, with 20ft containers widely available, and trucking capacity sufficient to meet demand. 

  • In Oceania, port delays in both Australia and New Zealand are being worsened by multiple challenges at warehousing facilities. These include worker shortages and capacity constraints that are increasing storage costs.  

Looking for more information about container logistics?

That’s the latest from us! For more insights and updates like this, take a look at our Knowledge Hub. For country-specific container shipping information, you can also check our dedicated container shipping section where you will find relevant information about container shipping worldwide.

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