At the end of the first quarter, the nominal global container fleet stood at 25.2 million TEUs, an increase of 4.2% compared to the first quarter of 2021.
Idle fleet remained low in the first quarter of 2022 (0.8% at quarter end), as the industry struggled with outages and port bottlenecks.
However, lost voyages and vessel delays caused by congestion and an ongoing compositional shift in deployment from shorter intra-regional trade routes to longer East-West trade routes continued to weigh on effective supply growth in the first quarter of 2022.
In summary, according to the Maersk company, the effective supply fell in the first quarter compared to the fourth quarter of 2021; but as air travel demand declined further, the balance between supply and demand deteriorated relative to the fourth quarter of 2021.
However, compared to the first quarter of 2021, the balance between supply and demand was even tighter.
Freight and charter rates remained elevated in the container industry, reflecting congestion, although a gradual decline was recorded for spot/short-term contracts during the first quarter relative to the fourth quarter of 2021, in line with the deterioration of supply and demand.
According to Maersk, the order book reached 26% of the global fleet in the first quarter, compared to 23% of the fleet at the end of the fourth quarter of 2021 due to continued high activity in new orders.
For one thing, freight rates out of China, as measured by the China Composite Freight Index (CCFI), increased 78% in the first quarter compared to the first quarter of 2021.
Meanwhile, continuing congestion and the dislocation of supply and demand fundamentals in the logistics industries add to the uncertainty surrounding the rate outlook.
On the demand side, Maersk indicated that a reduced impact from the Covid-19 pandemic should support the global economy, but the composition of spending is likely to rebalance towards services, and the sharp rise in prices of some goods may lead consumers to adjust their spending plans.
For now, the Russian invasion of Ukraine has weakened the global demand outlook and significantly increased uncertainty.
Maersk forecasts global container demand to remain stable between -1 and +1% in 2022, while air and ground logistics demand is expected to remain stronger through 2022.