When looking into project logistics, particularly special cargo, is important to remember that this particular type of cargo is moved via air and inland, as well as on ocean using three types of logistics services: containerised shipping, break-bulk ships (multipurpose vessels) or roll-on/roll-off (also written as RORO or ro-ro). All of these types of vessels are subjected to very different challenges, pressures and have different needs. Keeping this diversity in mind, what can we expect? What trends or changes will all the different aspects of project logistics see next year?

After exploring the 2023 industry trends that would characterise special cargo as well as the wind energy business, it is now time to look into what will be the trends that we will see in this space for 2024.

What will be upcoming trends for project logistics in 2024?

  1. Capacity issues: It is clear that cargo capacity for project logistics will be a challenge all throughout 2024 and beyond. The industry is still baring some of the consequences of COVID19. During the pandemic the demand for roll-on/roll-off exponentially lowered as not many consumers were buying personal vehicles. By proxy, this phenomenon meant that the overall orders and demand for RORO vessels between 2019 and 2022 also dropped in a big way (pun intended), reaching historic lows. Currently, the issue is that consumers are starting to buy (more) cars again, taking capacity so making it challenging for vessels to be used to transport big machinery. Because of this, the cargo that would usually be on a roll-on/roll-off ship will need to be moved in other ways, such as containerised shipping or multipurpose vessels. In the coming year, we will see a dynamic where the volumes are shifting between types of vessels due to capacity not being enough in one part of the market, as well as overcapacity in other parts. So, what are the indicators to watch for the next 18 months? Capacity changes in the market, as well as the order books for newly built containerised ships, break bulk ships and roll-on/roll-off.
  2. Signal versus noise: The project logistics market is unfortunately characterised by volatility in all its sub areas. All special cargo logistics projects can be “turned on and off” with a politician's signature. This puts heavy challenges on planning. In the coming years, the market may be affected by higher and drastic volatility. This will be quite complex for heavy industry players and their logistics partners, that will need to plan better and focus more on where to make sound investments in the types of assets for these big projects. The biggest challenge will be to understand “signal versus noise” as in what projects are truly going into completion and what instead could just be “noise” in the industry.
  3. Higher demand for renewables: Renewable energy projects in particular (wind, solar, etc.) will see higher need for project cargo transportation but capacity may have a hard time to follow such demand. According to the International Energy Agency (IEA) latest report, global investment in clean energy will rise to USD 1.7 trillion in 2023. “For the next 7-8 years, the pressures of special cargo volumes will be shifting between different pieces of the market, with a big part of project logistics going to be hyper focused on renewable energy, and sustainable infrastructure of all kinds” says Robin Townley, Business Product Owner for Global Project Logistics at Maersk. In the sector of wind energy, just as observed in the forecasting trends for 2023, the increase in offshore projects will continue. The continuous need for wind power production, prompting the shift from onshore into offshore, will see even more investments been finalised to build wind farms on water in the US and Europe. In the electric car sector, the boom in EV manufacturing, with more announcements made on EV and car battery manufacturing facilities being built, is having a big impact on project logistics as well. The upcoming demand is showing an increasing and stable interest in sustainable solutions, accelerating the global green transitions and its logistics.
  4. Repowering and restoring: Another trend that will be present starting from 2024 onwards, will be the need to replace old infrastructures. This is needed both to keep environmental standards across the entire renewable market with for instance old turbines built in the last 15 to 20 years that are now in need to be renewed and refreshed (repowering) and well as with old ships. Within the multi-purpose project vessels world, and break-bulk ships, some ships will start to have the need to be retired or repurposed, affecting in turn capacity and availability.
  5. Modelling and simulation: When looking even beyond 2024, it is worth mentioning that industry will see more investments into software that will be used for modelling and simulation of project cargo transport as a cost control measure. When fully developed and tested, this simulator software will be able to help the project logistics industry better understand the really complex moves necessary in transportation, boosting cost savings.

What is in sight for the future?

In conclusion, the next year will be a challenging one for project logistics. Elements like volatility, political sensitivity, capacity issues, and the necessity to renew the infrastructure to support sustainable ambitions and the long-term functionality of the sector, will characterise the next 18 months. In times like this, the absolute necessity to invest in the right partnerships is evident. Businesses will need to truly work with a trusted partner to brave the weather, find resilience to navigate the choppy waters of an uneasy and unstable market. This long-term value partnerships will be the one providing resilience through trust, cost saving and smart planning that will ultimately help with real long-term value generation going forward.

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