Page last updated at 13:24 GMT, Tuesday, 28 July 2009 14:24 UK

Where is the BBC Box?

By Nils Blythe
Business correspondent, BBC News

The Box
The Box began its journey in Scotland almost a year ago

The story of the BBC Box mirrors the fortunes of the global shipping industry.

It began its journey when global trade was booming. But in recent months, as global trade has slowed down, The Box has stayed in the same place.

The whole container shipping business has been hit hard by the economic downturn.

The slump has occurred just as a large number of new vessels are coming into service.

The over-capacity has caused big falls in freight rates and growing financial problems for the industry.

Intense pressure

Hapag-Lloyd - the world's fifth largest container shipping company - is seeking new funding.

The Box
BBC News is following a container around the world for a year to tell stories of globalisation and the world economy.
The Box's journey began in September, transporting Scotch whisky.
Since then it has travelled to countries including China, the US, Japan and Brazil.
It has carried goods such as beauty products, gardening equipment and spearmint flavouring.

Industry insiders report that other major shipping lines are under intense financial pressure.

"The container business made a collective profit of $5 billion (£3bn) in 2008. It is likely to make a loss of up to $20 billion this year," according to Richard Meade, news editor of the industry bible Lloyd's List.

After 53 years of annual growth, the volume of cargo carried by container ships may record a fall in 2009.

The May figures for westbound Asia-Europe services were down by a fifth on the previous year - an indication of the severity of the slump.

The problems for the industry have been compounded by a boom in building large new container ships.

And while older ships are being taken out of service it is estimated that the total available capacity will rise by 10% next year.

While many forecasters believe that world trade should start to pick up next year it will almost certainly not grow by enough to use up the spare shipping capacity, so vessels and containers will be less intensively used than in recent years.

The BBC Box is likely to find a new cargo before long. But it seems appropriate that it should have stayed in port since April.

Jeremy Hillman, who came up with the idea for the project, says this isn't the end of the line.

"Although we've had a longer than anticipated layover in Japan, we think the Box will be on the move shortly, probably to Thailand.

"Our environment correspondent Roger Harrabin is working on a story looking at the environmental costs of shipping and will be including the amount of emissions that our Box has clocked up on its journey so far."

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