With momentum on import volumes continuing into 2022, there will be little opportunity for supply chain bottlenecks to quickly resolve themselves, which means continuing upward pressure on spot and contract rates. As a historically disruptive 2021 neared a close, factors favoring continued strength in volumes were outnumbering factors suggesting an easing of demand in the trans-Pacific. Though big-box retailers leveraged their volumes to break through port bottlenecks and stock their shelves for the holidays, inventories overall remained very low. Meanwhile, consumers are flush with cash, employment is rising, economists see a low risk of recession, the stock market is at record highs, and a normal pre-COVID balance of spending between goods and services has yet to be restored. On the other side, falling consumer confidence and rising inflation eventually may temper demand, but as of late 2021, it hadn’t happened yet. Thus, the demand pressure on the supply chain will continue well into 2022, slamming hard into stubborn realities such as labor and chassis shortages that are proving resistant to easy fixes. Disruptions at origin and perhaps a post-holiday-shipping lull led to slightly easing trans-Pacific import spot rates, but continuing port congestion is tying up the vessel, container, and chassis capacity, a key reason for elevated ocean rates. Time will tell how much such a scenario will be in play by the time TPM begins in late February, but this panel will undoubtedly provide the context shippers and service providers need to guide them through the turmoil.
Equity Research Analyst-Transport
Vice President and Head of Commodity Research, Maritime & Trade
Board Member for Air and Ocean Freight
Executive Editor, JOC.com and The Journal of Commerce, Maritime & Trade