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Global Automotive Trade – A Balancing Act?

By 5. January 2023No Comments

Albeit the global macro-economic climate resembles that of a Norwegian winter these days, strong automotive exports continue to keep RoRo shipping lines and tonnage providers warm and fuzzy.

Even if freight revenues are high and ships full, having a balanced trading network is crucial to maintain a healthy and sustainable balance sheet.

In the December release of the Esgian Shipping Suite for RoRo, our clever data scientists and engineers cracked the code on how to track vessel movements and thus trade flows between 20 different export and import regions globally (hello algorithms!)

Comparing the first 10 months of 2022 against the same period of 2021, a few interesting facts transpire…

Far East Outbound

The two largest trade flows are naturally East and West, but significant volume is also going to Oceania with almost one ship per day in 2022 – g’day mate.

To Europe, we see that the total number of sailings climbed 13% (…) in 2022, but overall cargo carrying capacity (CEU) increased actually only 4% as the average CEU capacity declined some 8%. To take advantage of the crazy FEEU market, shipping lines are thus deploying smaller tonnage – well, basically putting in any spare capacity they can get their hands on. As long as the rate level supports it – throw it in the pot!

Conversely, the less lucrative “return” trade back to Asia ex Europe increased only 5% both in terms of activity level and CEU capacity, so not all vessels did a Michael Jackson moonwalk back for sure… in fact, there were 10 sailings/month less in EUFE than in FEEU meaning about 600 000 cars less on a YEP basis.

However, to the USA, the # of sailings and the capacity was more aligned – both increasing about 8% in 2022 vs 2021. With close to 55 monthly sailings on average, this is indeed a very busy trading corridor which employed RoRo ships with a total car-carrying capacity of a massive 4 million units last year. More interesting perhaps is that the exports ex USA to Asia also boomed in 2022- increasing the activity level by 16% (…) with CEU capacity to support the same.

North Atlantic Basin

North America and Europe are still happy trading partners and many European OEMs have manufacturing plants in the USA producing e.g. BMW and Mercedes SUVs… and even if Tesla opened up their Berlin factor earlier this year – all Model S and X are still produced in sunny California.

The USEU and EUUS trades are actually remarkably balanced – in stark contrast to many other trade flows. In the first 10 months of last year, 239 vessels sailed ex Europe to USA and 235 back (not always the same though!). However, EUUS declined by 3% in 2022 and USEU 7%… so clearly some vessels went Eastbound.

Above is just a small taste of what the Esgian Shipping Suite for RoRo can provide of insight into the fascinating world of automotive and rolling transportation. A world that is always changing.

What do you want to know?

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