Svetovno ladjarstvo na poti v koncentracijo

Dober članek v The Economistu, ki po eni strani kaže na (banalno) dejstvo, da so letos cene pomorskega prevoza kontejnerjev zaradi padca cen nafte padle za polovico (in znašajo le četrtino tistih izpred 15 let), na drugi strani pa pokaže na dramatičen posledični pritisk na konsolidacijo v panogi. Veliki ladjarji investirajo v super velike ladje, ki sprejmejo po 20,000 TEU kontejnerjev in se povezujejo med seboj v strateške alianse ter izrivajo majhne. To bo sicer še nekaj časa tiščalo cene pomorskega prevoza nazvdol, toda na dolgi rok je prevelika koncentracija v ladijskem prevozu škodljiva. Ne samo zaradi (sicer nujnega) povpravka cen navzgor, pač pa tudi zaradi vzdrževanja normalne tržne strukture tudi na strani pristanišč.

Among the winners from this flight to scale will be the world’s largest three lines—Maersk, Mediterranean Shipping Company (MSC) and CMA CGM. They have the industry’s lowest costs, because they have the biggest ships and the cheapest finance costs. They also have the advantage of being based in Europe: demand to transport goods across the Atlantic has remained strong. Analysts expect the big three to stay profitable over the next few tough quarters, even as their revenues fall.

Maersk and MSC have also formed an alliance, 2M, to save more money by sharing space on their ships on transatlantic and transpacific routes. As the strongest lines get stronger, through fleet renewal and alliance-building, smaller lines that cannot cut their costs quickly enough or obtain cheaper finance to build bigger ships will suffer. China’s two biggest lines, China Shipping Group and Cosco, were losing money before the current downturn started. They have recently swung back into profit, but only thanks to generous state aid to help them scrap old vessels. The government regards it as vital to have a national merchant fleet, so it will not let the two go to the wall. But it plans to merge them to save money, and to stamp out corruption at Cosco which, according to internal documents leaked this week, is another reason for its poor performance.

As falling volumes and weak shipping rates force the industry to consolidate, with fewer, bigger lines sailing ever-larger ships to fewer, bigger ports, the resulting gains in efficiency should mean cheaper transport costs, bringing benefits for consumers in many places. That is, unless the consolidation goes too far, and the surviving lines are able to jack up their rates. The 2M alliance now controls more than 28% of global container-shipping capacity, and almost a third on the Europe-to-Asia route.

Regulators are already worried about the impact on competition: in June last year, the Chinese authorities vetoed plans for a larger alliance, called P3, that would have involved all three of the world’s biggest lines. Cheaper container rates are a boon for firms engaged in international trade, and their customers. But there is a risk that the benefits will not last.

Vir: The Economist

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