News ID: 80360 |
Publish Date: 09:36 - 06 April 2019

Global box traffic knocked by China's early holidays

The latest CTS data shows how Chinese New Year hit containerised trade through February as the typical cargo slowdown took hold. There was significant weakening in Asia-Europe and transpacific traffic.

Transpacific box numbers for February hit by frontloading in the latter stages of last year, with volumes down more than 16%.

GLOBAL containerised trade during February fell nearly 8% compared with last year, as an early Chinese New Year weighed on monthly figures.

The latest numbers published by Container Trades Statistics show that container lines moved 11.5m teu in February, down 7.7% on the corresponding month in 2018.

With the Chinese holidays — signalling a nationwide shutdown of factory production as workers returned home to celebrate the festivities — falling at the start of the month, the cargo slowdown was expected. Indeed, the pre-holiday rush fell in January, which saw its highest traffic volumes on record of 14.1m teu.

A better snapshot of market performance will become more apparent when CTS publishes figures for March, which will largely discount for cargo fluctuations either side of the Chinese New Year.

Global volumes of 25.7m teu through the first two months of 2019 were down 2.1% against last year, according to CTS.

On the transpacific trade, carriers moved just shy of 1.1m teu, representing a 16.1% decline on 2018.

The traditional weakening of volumes post-Chinese New Year, however, was compounded by frontloading in the latter stages of last year ahead of proposed tariffs on Chinese goods entering the US from the start of 2019.

This factor also led to a significant softening of rates through January and February with US inventories already well stocked.

Asia-Europe volumes dropped 14.7% in February versus last year’s total to slightly over 1m teu, following a 10.8% spike in January during the typical pre-Chinese New Year rush, when volumes were counted at more than 1.2m teu.

Total figures for 2019 come the end of February were down 0.7% on 2018 for Asia-Europe routes, highlighting why carriers on the key east-west artery struggled to lift rates in the early stages of the year even with substantial cuts to capacity.

Brighter news for carriers came from the transatlantic trade, where Europe - North America volumes in February climbed 12.4% on January and 9% over last year to nearly 408,000 teu, a trend CTS attributed most likely to the favourable rate of exchange.

However, this was still not enough to lift spot rates on the trade, which have been held back by the arrival of larger ships and with more capacity.

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