Ro-ro operator Wallenius Wilhelmsen is cautiously optimistic about the prospects of the breakbulk industry next year.


While an economic slowdown is expected, the carrier said that there is cause for optimism. Robert Berg, market analysis and finance manager at Wallenius Wilhelmsen, said: “The widespread parts shortages, port congestion and general supply and demand imbalances that have affected supply chains this year are expected to abate somewhat next year and are already improving as 2022 ends.” 

Nevertheless, the economic outlook clouds the picture. While this varies from nation to nation, rising energy prices, inflation and declining consumer confidence are weighing on the global economy, which is forecast to grow only modestly at about 2.2 percent in 2023, according to the Organization of Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD). 

The need to decarbonise shipping also complicates the picture, added Wallenius Wilhelmsen, with the International Maritime Organization’s (IMO) carbon intensity regulation set to come into effect on January 1, 2023. This will impact capacity. 

Berg said: “Our job is to follow IMO regulations while taking advantage of two key trends expected to continue in the breakbulk market in 2023: the drive for energy security and decarbonisation, which drive investment in renewables and electric vehicles; and supply shortages in the construction equipment market leading to higher prices.”

With the global focus on both sustainability and energy security, investment in green energy is ramping up – and fast. The transition to clean energy has led to an 8 percent increase in the renewable capacity in 2022. This is expected to remain steady in 2023. 

Renewables have the potential to reduce the EU’s dependency on Russian natural gas next year. This increasing focus on energy security alongside strong policy support in the EU, China and Latin America is accelerating their development, added the carrier.   

Statistics also show that electric vehicle sales are booming. This market (and all industries connected to it, both upstream and downstream) look strongly poised for long-term growth, said Wallenius Wilhelmsen. McKinsey predicts that in the USA, 50 percent of all vehicles sold will be electric by 2030. By 2035, all new cars that come onto the market in the EU will be zero emission.

All these changes mean that demand for metals used to manufacture EV batteries is expected to grow strongly. This can result in the possibility of an emerging ‘supercycle’ for commodities, or a permanent step change in demand that cannot be met by supply, leading to prices sitting above incentive levels for an extended period. 

For example, demand for nickel and cobalt is expected to soar over the next three years compared to the last commodities supercycle (which took place between 2003 and 2007). Growth in the lithium market will be more modest but still pronounced as demand for electric vehicles continues to grow. 

The transition to cleaner energy is also expected to see the market for transformers grow strongly over the remainder of the decade, as smart electricity grids are implemented.


“From speaking to our customers, we see new strength in the commitment to investments in sustainability, decarbonisation and electrification. It is our job to support and facilitate that by both improving the sustainability of our own operations and acting as part of the supply chain for environmentally-friendly technologies such as EVs,” said Magnus Ödling, vice president, global industrial account development.

In the construction machinery market, there is a shortage of machines. This means that the outlook for 2023 is for relatively high continued sales as manufacturers work through their backlogs. Because order books are full and lead times are long, many suppliers are sold out well into the new year, according to Off Highway Research. And because supply is tight, manufacturers have also been able to increase prices against a backdrop of high inflation. “2022 is shaping up to be a peak year for construction machinery, but volumes will remain strong in a historic context next year,” Berg explained.

Overall, Wallenius Wilhelmsen said, while the economic outlook for 2023 is uncertain, the breakbulk industry can take advantage of underlying trends in the energy and construction sectors to ensure a successful year.