“Shippers are still driven by costs rather than green ethics,” according to a senior manager of financial consultant PwC.
Tom Vermeiren told delegates at TOC 2015 in Rotterdam on 10 June that cost was still the primary driver of shippers’ modal decisions. He said container lines still continue to choose the ports with significant volumes because they need to fill their increasingly large ships and seek the lowest prices. He was reflecting the results of a recent survey of European shippers.
Vermeiren noted that except for companies selling consumer goods, there was little evidence that shippers were changing their behaviour and switching from road to rail and barge. Road pricing might change their attitudes, but first the European Union would have to ensure equal conditions for road pricing across the continent.
Recent development of intermodal supply chains has been motivated by economic considerations as well as concern for the environment, he said adding, “Intermodal inland transport systems are not there just because of some green logic. They are the fishing rod that ports and terminals use to catch hinterland volumes, which are then the bait used to attract big ocean carriers to their ports.
Speaking about the vicious circle that was driving down container rates, Jesper Praestensgaard of Boston Consulting predicted that oversupply in container shipping was likely to continue until at least 2019. Low growth and low rates were the ‘new norm’ and needed to be incorporated into companies’ business strategies, he added.
Dominik Landa, commercial manager of DCT Gdansk said the reason for the recent fast growth in volumes at the Polish container terminal was that shippers to the growing markets of Eastern Europe wanted to get their goods closer to their final destination.
Landa said that since DCT started operating in 2007, the size of container ships had increased so dramatically that the owners had already started work on a second terminal, to accommodate 18,000 teu-plus ships, which would be opened next year.