Container handling volumes are growing at their slowest rates since 2009, based on throughput data at the 25 largest ports, collected by the information service Alphaliner
In its most recent newsletter, Alphaliner said weak demand in Europe and the United States resulted in volumes growing by 4 percent in 2012 compared to 8.7 percent in 2011 and 15.5 percent in 2010.
The company said 11 of the top 25 ports are located in China, seven in other Far East countries, four in Europe, two in the United States and one in the Middle East.
Alphaliner noted "demand at these ports was particularly weak in the second half of the year, when growth slowed to only 2.8 percent. Weak trade volumes on the key Far East-Europe and Far East-North America headhaul routes contributed to the lackluster performance, recording declines of 4.4 percent and 0.4 percent respectively for 2012."
Alphaliner said weak demand will be "the key challenge for the industry for 2013, with slower growth expected to continue at least for the first half of this year," with the Far East-Europe route "expected to be one of the worst performing trades again in 2013, with significant uncertainty over the health of European consumer demand."
It pointed to Maersk’s decision to idle several 6,000-7,000-TEU ships and temporarily suspend its Asia-Europe AE-9 service for several weeks and combine it with the TP7 starting in April
, as "evidence of the severity of the slump."
Alphaliner added "more enforced idling of surplus vessels in the next few weeks is expected." - Chris Dupin