For at least 30 years, the container shipping industry has been in a recurring boom-and-bust loop. During times of strong macroeconomic growth, shipping rates skyrocketed.

Using these profits, container ship operators would invest in new, ever-larger vessels. With each boom comes a bust, and without fail, the economy would slide into a downturn, demand would plunge, rates would tumble, and operators would find themselves burdened with heavy debt and idle vessels. During these times, overcapacity kept a rates low, leverage would expand, revenues would fall, and ship operators would tumble into bankruptcy—or stay out of court thanks only to amend-and-extend agreements with their creditors.

Today, however, the fundamentals that would support a break away from that cycle are in place. But will carriers take their chance to break the cycle?

"Shippers need to adapt to a new normal of higher shipping rates than those that prevailed though most of this century—though not as high as they stand today. Successful adaptation requires shippers to actively address the key drivers of transportation costs: urgency, dimensions, lead time, and distance."