Container shipping remains in free fall amid COVID-19 crisis

Container ship in the harbor at sunset.

Container shipping remains in free fall as the COVID-19 pandemic refuses to abate, with exports of Chinese manufactured goods not picking up according to BIMCO.

In a report, BIMCO said data indicates a “massive weakening” in global manufacturing, with most economies seeing significant drops in their purchasing manager’s index (PMI).

China and the US in particular have seen severe drops in fortunes, as the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic compounds damage already done by the trade war both countries have been embroiled in since 2017.

The manufacturing PMI can be considered a sign of how the container shipping industry, and by extension the wider economy, is set to fare in the near fortunes.

Idle container ship capacity ticked up when Chinese lockdowns created export disruptions in February, and idle container capacity remain around 10% of the total fleet as demand for containerised goods in advanced economies fade.

Supply chain disruptions are on retreat, which is certainly a positive development, but with slowing consumer demand for finished goods, seaborne container volumes are set to remain low and outright decline in 2020.

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