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Container volumes will continue to grow despite trade war threat: Alphaliner
Date:2019-09-30 Readers:
PARIS-BASED container research house Alphaliner says that despite the United States' escalation of the ongoing trade war, global container volumes will continue to grow this year.

It maintains that aggregate container port throughput for the full year to increase by 2.5 per cent in 2019 - a downwards revision from the 3.5 per cent growth estimate we published in January.

The International Monetary Fund has also revised its global economic and trade growth projections downwards in its 'World Economic Outlook' update on July 18 and warned of further downside risks to these forecasts. Global GDP growth in 2019 was downgraded from 3.3 per cent to 3.2 per cent, while global trade volume growth was downgraded from 3.4 per cent to 2.5 per cent as the IMF noted a significant slow-down in global trade due to rising trade tensions.

It is worth noting that the IMF downgrades were published before the USA announced its latest round of import tariffs on August 1. These comprise an additional 10 per cent of tariffs on US$300 billion worth of imports from China, starting from September 1. Beijing swiftly retaliated, announcing on August 5 that China would halt all new imports of agricultural products from the US.

The escalating trade tensions will have a negative impact on container volumes, with the 'TEU-to-GDP growth multiplier' expected to fall to less than 1 in 2019. The multiplier has seen a steady decline over the last 30 years from over 3 times in the decade from 1990 to 2000, to less than 1.5 times since 2010.

Container throughput growth remained resilient in the second quarter of 2019, with Alphaliner's survey of global ports recording a 2.8 per cent growth in period from April to June.

The preliminary growth rate was slightly above the first quarter's rate of 2.7 per cent, as the ongoing Sino-US trade war failed to bring down over-all container volumes.

Volume growth at Chinese ports including Hong Kong) slowed to 3.5 per cent in the second quarter, compared to 4.2 per cent in the first.

Hong Kong continues to retreat, with volumes dropping by -8.1 per cent in the second quarter, while other coastal ports in mainland China saw growth rates fall to 4.6 per cent, down from 5.2 per cent in the first quarter.

North American volume growth also slowed to 2.9 per cent in the second quarter from 4.7 per cent a quarter before. Combined volumes at Los Angeles/Long Beach fell by -0.5 per cent in the quarter, but all other main North American ports registered volume gains, including New York/New Jersey (+5.1 per cent), Savannah (+1.0 per cent), Seattle/Tacoma (+4.5 per cent), Vancouver (+1.9 per cent), Norfolk (+9.7 per cent), Houston (+11.4 per cent) and Charleston (+2.4 per cent).

Ports in Europe registered the strongest gains in the second quarter, led by Rotterdam and Antwerp that reported gains of 5.5 per cent and 9.1 per cent respectively.

The German ports have not yet released their first-half volume results but their performance is expected to be mixed with solid gains in Hamburg, offset by losses at Bremerhaven. Ports in the United Kingdom are expected to post weaker numbers due to Brexit-related uncertainties.

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Back:  Asia-Europe rates plunge 7.2pc to US$593/TEU, USWC stable at $1,328/FEU
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