COPENHAGEN (Reuters) - The head of Maersk Line, the world's biggest container shipping company and a unit of Danish group A.P. Moller-Maersk, told Lloyd's List newspaper that container exports from Asia to Europe are likely to drop 3 percent this year.
In its half-year report on Aug. 14, Maersk had said it expected a decline in inbound European volumes this year, but did not put a figure on the drop.
"In 2012, growth rates have come down across the board," Maersk Line Chief Executive Soren Skou was quoted telling the shipping newspaper. "If lines keep piling on capacity, we are heading straight for a new rate war."
Maersk Line swung back to profit in the second quarter on a recovery in freight rates, and the group forecast "a modest positive result" for its container shipping arm in 2012 based on higher average rates in the second half of the year.
But with the world economy sputtering, the outlook for container shipping remains fraught with uncertainty.
Maersk expects zero growth overall in the Asia-Europe container market this year, with eastbound volumes likely to grow by around 6 percent, Lloyd's List said.
But that will not compensate for an expected 3 percent drop in the larger westbound volumes, it said.
"The Danish line's own internal forecasts will make grim reading for the whole industry, with north-south as well as east-west trades weakening," Lloyd's List said. "Only the intra-Asia market is still looking robust."