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全球航运价格战:深圳到荷兰仅150美元

David Z. Morris 2015年12月22日

“如果中国企业的运费能比马士基的边际成本还低,肯定也低于他们自己的边际成本。”

莱恩•彼德森是货运代理行Flexport的首席执行官,每天眼见海运价格时涨时跌,但就在两周前,一个同行的报价让他大吃一惊:150美元!

这是从深圳到荷兰鹿特丹20英尺标准集装箱的即期运价,报价方是一家未披露名字的中国承运商。即使在外行人看来,150美元可能也偏低了些。彼德森也证实了这点:“真是低得不可思议。”

这价格还抵不上一顿丰盛的晚餐,也不够买一个新手机。

彼德森评价:“这可能是全球史上最低的海运价格。”

国际海运费已经较低谷略有回升,但整体来看仍处于历史低位,这其中部分原因是中国海运公司大打价格战。事实上,目前的运费已经不能简单用低来形容了,最便宜的报价几乎肯定抵不上承运商的燃料和人工成本。

“一直以来,马士基是走低成本路线的货运商,”彼德森说,“他们在业内规模最大,因此能享受定价权。现在大家突然发现中国人出价居然比马士基还优惠。如果中国企业的运费能比马士基的边际成本还低,肯定也低于他们自己的边际成本。”

中国海运公司在海外动作频频也正逢国内两大的海运巨头合并之际,一旦中国远洋运输集团(下称中远)与中国海运集团(下称中海)完成合并,将成为全球第四大集运公司。

两家公司合并的时机也有一些讽刺意味。彼德森指出,马士基和其他大型集运班轮公司这些年一直在大幅压低运费,试图削弱规模较小效率相对低下的竞争对手。行业清理完毕后,照理说马士基等巨头就能提升运费了。

但中国企业横空杀出,马士基等大公司的策略有可能就此落空,最主要的原因是合并后的中国集运巨头和其前身中海与中远一样都是国有企业。假如中国认定值得为刺激出口而投资航运业,那么即便海运报价亏本或者分文不赚,中国集运企业也承受得起。如果真是如此,连马士基这样的业内巨无霸也可能败下阵来。

“谁能大过中国政府,谁又能比他们还杀得起价。”彼德森如此感叹。

受全球需求下滑和行业进一步产能过剩的负面影响,马士基已然自身难保。不过,真正痛苦的还是价格灵活性不强的小型海运公司。航空货运公司也会是很惨,行业咨询机构Drewry追踪的数据显示,今年空运与海运费的差距已达到创纪录水平。

当然,因为低运费都来自一次性的即期合同,并非长期合约,所以情况有可能很快发生变化。

“从承运商的角度看,谁也不希望现在签约,都不想让这么低的报价变成长期合约。”彼德森如是说。(财富中文网)

译者:Pessy

校对:夏林

Ryan Petersen, as CEO of the freight forwarder Flexport, sees a constant flow of shipping prices every day. But two weeks ago, he heard a number that stopped him short:$150.

That’s a spot rate offered by an unnamed Chinese carrier to ship 20-foot containers from Shenzhen to Rotterdam. That may seem low to the layman, and Petersen can confirm:“It’s mind-blowingly cheap.”

Cheaper than a fancy dinner. Cheaper than a new phone.

“It’s probably the lowest shipping has been in the history of planet Earth.”

Though the trough has since ticked back up slightly, the ocean freight market as a whole is still at a historic low, thanks in part to aggressive moves by Chinese shipping companies. In fact, rates are so far beyond cheap that the best bargains are almost certainly below shippers’ fuel and manpower costs.

“Traditionally Maersk has always been the low cost provider,” says Petersen. “They have the most scale and they have the luxury of setting the prices. Now all of a sudden we’re seeing the Chinese come in at a lower price than Maersk. So if they’re going below Maersk’s marginal cost, for sure they’re going below their own marginal cost.”

The aggressive moves come as China’s COSCO and CSCL shippers are merging, set to become the world’s fourth largest container operator.

They also come with a dose of irony. Maersk and the other biggest shippers have been pushing prices down aggressively for years, says Petersen, to weaken smaller, less efficient competitors. Post-consolidation, the big boys theoretically would be able to raise rates.

But to have the Chinese undercut them now could threaten the big shippers’ strategy—especially because the merged Chinese megashipper, like its predecessors, will be state-owned. Loss-inducing or zero-profit rates could be sustainable for them, if the Chinese government decides it’s a worthwhile investment to goose Chinese exports. Even a behemoth like Maersk could end up humbled.

“You’re not bigger than the Chinese government,” says Petersen. “You can’t go deeper than them.”

Maersk in particular is already on its back heel, because of both falling global demand, and self-reinforcing industry trends towards overcapacity. But the real headaches are going to be for smaller shippers, who have less price flexibility. Other big losers in the crunch could be air freight services, as industry tracker Drewry says the gap between air and ocean rates hit record levels this year.

This could all change quickly, of course—especially because the lowest rates on the market are one-time spot deals, not long-term contracts.

“Nobody wants to sign contracts right now, from the carrier side,” says Petersen. “They don’t want to commit to prices this low for the long term.”

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