The international shipping organization BIMCO, based in Copenhagen, sees 2018 as the year container shipping growth and demand growth strike a balance, according to an article in American Shipper. “BIMCO forecasts demand to grow by 4.0-4.5 percent against a fleet growth of 3.9 percent in 2018,” stated Peter Sand, chief shipping analyst for BIMCO.

Sand also believes that our ports on the East Coast will see increasingly more ships as carriers leverage the new locks at Panama Canal, which opened in June 2016. “For the whole of the U.S. East Coast in 2017, the amount of inbound loaded containers grew by 10.1 percent,” Sand said in the American Shipper article. “It took the industry a while to embrace the expanded Panama Canal locks – but they are making use of them now. 2018 is likely to be the year where many container line networks calling the U.S. East Coast will become fully up-scaled by deploying ultra large containerships.” He also commented that we have yet to see the full impact of the elevated Bayonne Bridge, which enables mega containerships to enter into the New York/New Jersey port. The Bayonne Bridge is an arch bridge spanning the Kill Van Kull connecting Bayonne, New Jersey with Staten Island, New York City. The bridge was raised to 215 feet to allow for larger, more efficient ships.

In related news, imports rose steadily at the nation’s seaports in January, as U.S. retailers and manufacturers restocked after the holidays and Chinese suppliers stepped up shipments for the annual two-week factory shutdown during the Lunar New Year. U.S.-bound ocean shipments increased nearly 7.7% across all of the nation’s seaports in January, according to research firm Panjiva Inc. This is on the heels of a record-setting year for import shipments to the U.S., which rose 4.1% in 2017 from the prior year as the nation’s trade deficit expanded to $566 billion, its widest in nine years.

“That’s a direct reflection of the overall level of activity in the economy and our continued engagement in international trade,” said Paul Bingham, a trade economist with Economic Development Research Group, in an article in the Wall Street Journal. “Consumers are still buying goods made overseas and so are businesses.”

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Sources: American Shipper, Wall Street Journal