Container Traffic Takes ‘Giant Leap Forward’


Preliminary data shows that world container traffic made a “giant leap forwards” in the first quarter of 2017, according to Drewry’s Container Insight Weekly report.

Ports and terminals have been experiencing a higher level of workload as trade lane data from Container Trades Statistics (CTS) indicates that world box traffic surged by 10% year-on-year in Q1, 2017.

The CTS numbers point to intra-regional trade as the primary driver of growth with volumes up by 17%, versus 7% for deep-sea traffic.

CTS figures for the Greater China region to and from a selection of major trading partners show that nearly half of the extra 2.6 million TEU volumes handled in the first three months came from trade with its neighbouring Intra-Asia partners.

The consultant's sample of trading regions shows that traffic from Chinese imports increased by 28%.

Drewry provided its insight on the effects of this after forwarders revealed that the world's busiest port was under pressure last month after congestion started causing problems.

Drewry stated: “While the rebound in container volumes appears to be broad-based it is clear from its well above-average growth that China is very much at the epicentre.”

A sample of six carrier liftings information from Drewry also shows that the average volume growth for the six carriers in Q1 2017 was 10%, with a wide spread between the slowest growing company Zim (4%) to the fastest growing line MOL (17%).

Between them the six lines operate about 30% of the world’s containership fleet.


Figure 1: Selected carrier volumes in 1Q17 (000 teu)

Source: Drewry Maritime Research


Drewry concluded: “It’s fair to say that the few, if any, saw this extreme growth coming.

“If confirmed, a quarterly rate of 10% for loaded container traffic would far exceed anything seen since 2010 – when demand rebounded sharply following the crash of 2009.

“Over the past two years 2015-16 the average quarterly rate was a mere 2.3% despite some uplift from 2Q16 onwards.

“There is still some cross-checking to be done, but it does seem that demand growth was much stronger in 1Q17 than we previously anticipated and will necessitate an upgrade to our full-year forecast.”

Drewry's last Container Insight Weekly analysed Maersk Line’s Hamburg Süd Acquisition.

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