The Sun Rises in the East
As 2021 drew to a close, America faced a tough road ahead due to a historic rise in inflation and European growth slowed due to rising energy costs. The, as for now temporary, delay of the Nord 2 Pipeline has contributed to the high price of energy, as well. Russia’s incursions into Ukraine have made the outlook in Europe even foggier. As we examine the Chinese shipping outlook, it is clear economies from every continent are more intertwined than ever.
Following the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) entering into effect on January 1, 2022, the Asia-Pacific region looks to lead economic growth through the remainder of the year. This year’s Lunar New Year celebrations were slightly milder than usual with many Chinese citizens staying home due to pandemic restrictions. Now that the Lunar New Year festivities are winding down alongside the decrease in Omicron cases, Chinese enterprise is poised to explode.
Renewed Hope for Sino-American Relations
Despite a diplomatic boycott of the Beijing-hosted Olympics, the economic relationship between China and the United States looks to improve in 2022. A leading reason for this rosy outlook is the power of the RCEP, as the world’s largest free trade agreement. In fact, US companies’ investments in 2021 increased 30.9% year-on-year and look to continue on the same trajectory. The global economy as a whole is projected to rebound this year, creating more investment opportunities for multinational corporations in America, China, and other countries.
Another benefit of the RCEP is creating elasticity in regional supply chains. One of the important provisions in the historic agreement is improving the division of labor among the 15 member states. Moving on from Covid-19, everyone is looking for ways to protect the supply chain and this agreement will be effective for years to come.
Impact of Covid-19
Compared to the early years of the Covid-19 pandemic, countries and corporations appear to be more in control of proper responses to outbreaks. The Omicron variant created a series of difficulties, but the spike combined with the Lunar New Year could have resulted in catastrophic backlogs at Chinese and American ports. While there are still delays and tightened capacity at ports around the world, a combination of ever-increasing access to vaccines and preparedness by private companies has mitigated worst-case scenarios. For example, Maersk is one of several companies to secure extra storage and transportation to ride out the Lunar New Year downtime.
Shipping Rates Remain High
2021 was a banner year for shipping companies and 2022 looks to be much the same. Q1 began with high costs as everyone prepped for the Lunar New Year holiday. As we enter Q2, stores needing to restock depleted inventories will keep those rates at the same price or push them even higher. Deutsche Bank is predicting Maersk and Hapag-Lloyd rates will be up 30% or higher compared to 2021—a previous record.
Even less excitable forecasts have to contend with the potential outbreak of another Covid variant, continued labor negotiations and the possibility of a global military conflict, all of which would escalate shipping costs for every route.
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