Nothing ventured, nothing gained: when will financial privileges for shipping giants be removed? / World trade at subdued level
Somehow, the world of logistics is perverse. On the one hand, shipping giants such as Maersk and Hapag-Lloyd made humongous profits in the three years since the discovery of Covid-19 and don’t know what to do with that money. On the other hand, more and more port operators and inland freight forwarders are complaining about a blatant distortion of competition and are fighting bankruptcy.

Because the big shipping companies still hardly have to pay any taxes, they are allowed, with the approval of competition authorities, to join forces in unholy giga-alliances and meanwhile earn millions of euros with overland transport. While their market power grows consistently, a number of lesser firms go down the drain, and port operators do not know how they are supposed to pay for essential expansion measures. Some have cash aplenty, others need it urgently – and politicians look on.

In view of these privileged distributional injustices, it is little consolation that global trade in goods shrank rather than grew in February 2023. Almost everywhere is a minus sign in front of figures for imports and exports. According to data from the trade indicator compiled by the Institute for the World Economy (IfW Kiel, Germany; www.ifw-kiel.de), global trade fell 1.3% in January versus the year-earlier period.

There are two exceptions: first, China’s foreign trade is on the rise. This fits in with the fact that congestion at major ports in the country – especially off Shanghai – is increasing again. However, the Kiel researchers do not consider this a renewed structural disruption of supply chains. Instead, they see the queues of freighters as a sign that operational processes have not yet returned to normal after the end of China’s rigid zero-Covid policy.

Second, US imports are on the rise, especially along the East Coast. In 2022, the port of Houston reported a healthy increase of 15% in container throughput, and New York grew by 5.6%. In comparison, things were much quieter at the big Western European ports of Antwerp, Rotterdam, and Hamburg. In view of the situation facing port operators, one could almost say, “No wonder there’s no money in it”.

Freight rates from 27 February to 5 March 2023
(price for 40-foot container [FEU] with change from prior week)

China – US West Coast: -6.25% to USD 1,500 (EUR 1,415)

China – US East Coast: -6.25% to USD 3,000

China – Northern Europe: -3.7% to USD 2,600

Northern Europe – China: unchanged at USD 750

China – Southern Europe: unchanged at USD 3,200

Southern Europe – China: unchanged at USD 800

US East Coast – Northern Europe: unchanged at USD 1,000

Northern Europe – US East Coast: -1.7% to USD 5,700
03.03.2023 Plasteurope.com 1118 [252293-0]
Published on 03.03.2023
Logistik: Wann fallen die Finanz-Privilegien für die Reederei-Riesen?German version of this article...

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