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News ID: 80511 |
Publish Date: 14:59 - 07 July 2020

Container volume figures paint a bleak picture

Containerised freight volumes have turned the corner and have risen from April’s lows. But liftings remain well below last year’s figures on key trades

The export hubs of Asia remain the hardest hit by the coronavirus pandemic’s impact on global economies

Volumes on the Asia-Europe trade improved in May but were down on last year.

CONTAINER volumes bounced back in May from rock-bottom levels the previous month but remain well down on where they were at the corresponding time last year.

Figures from container trades statistics showed volumes rose 11.7% month on month in May to 13.3m teu, but were down 11.4% on the year-earlier period. The year-to-date total of 64.1m teu is 7.7% down on the same period last year.

But with volumes improving slightly, rates have turned in the opposite direction, the data group said.

“Last month, the Global Price Index hit a high of 74, but it hasn’t lasted,” it said. “It lost three points this month but even at 71 is 5 points higher than a year ago.”

The export hubs of Asia remain the hardest hit by the coronavirus pandemic’s impact on global economies. The year-to-date total for Far East exports is 34.7m teu, down nearly one tenth on last year.

While May volumes on the Asia-Europe trade were up 10% on April, with 1.25m teu shipped, that figure was down 14.6% on last year’s volumes.

“Given that April was already close to 20% down on last year, the second quarter as a whole may prove to be lower than the first and gives some measure of the impact of the pandemic on demand from Europe, where it was at its worst during April and May,” CTS said.

Despite the extended programme of blanked sailings, the price index on this trade lost another point and, at 57, was now just three points higher than last year, it added.

On the back-haul Europe to Asia trade, the 65,000 teu shipped in May was the highest monthly total so far this year, down 7.5% on a year ago. 

The West Mediterranean and North Africa sub-region contracted by 18% on last year but from northern Europe the decline was a more manageable 5%.

“If this trade is the bellwether of future trends in the industry, it may not be surprising that some commentators do not expect container trade to return to pre-Covid 19 levels before the end of 2022,” CTS said.

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