Global Port Tracker report points to ongoing economic difficulties

Ongoing difficult economic conditions in Europe continue to paint a difficult picture of a continent slipping into recession, according to the most recent edition of the Global Port Tracker report from Hackett Associates and the Bremen Institute of Shipping Economics and Logistics.

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Ongoing difficult economic conditions in Europe continue to paint a difficult picture of a continent slipping into recession, according to the most recent edition of the Global Port Tracker report from Hackett Associates and the Bremen Institute of Shipping Economics and Logistics.

Ports surveyed in this report include the six major container reports in North Europe: le Havre, Antwerp, Zeebrugge, Rotterdam, Bremen/Bremerhaven, and Hamburg.

“Trade is weakening in the continuing slide into zero growth (at best) and negative growth,” said Ben Hackett, president of Hackett Associates, in the report. “The consumer confidence index as measured by the EU Commission continues to decline. The index is now dangerously low compared to its long term trend, with the exception of the 2009 recession.”

The report’s forecast for freight flows stated that Europe-bound imports are down 2.1 percent year-to-date, with further declines expected into the first quarter of 2013 and growth expected in the second quarter. And in Northern Europe, including intra-European trades, Global Port Tracker expects a 1.8 percent import decline in 2012.

Looking at exports, the report said that Europe should be up 4 percent in 2012, with Northern Europe up 4.7 percent.

And for the six ports included in Global Port Tracker, 2012 import volumes are expected to rise 1.5 percent to 16.75 million TEU (Twenty-foot Equivalent Units), and exports are expected to grow 4.5 percent to 17.64 million TEU.

According to Global Port Tracker, imports are expected to rise 0.6 percent over the next six months, topping a 1.6 percent decline for the same period in 2011. And total incoming loaded containers are expected to increase 0.3 percent in the next six months compared to the previous six months, with outgoing loaded containers expected to decrease 0.7 percent.

While near-term declines are expected, the report stated that “record highs” are expected for imports and exports in the second quarter of 2013. And annual volume gains are forecasted in four of the next six months even though volumes are expected to be in line with previous year levels, said the report. Growth is expected in two of the next four quarters over previous quarters, with only one quarter expected to post annual growth.

“On the European side, things have slowed down dramatically,” Hackett told LM in a recent interview. “There is a lack of confidence [as noted in economic metrics] and GDP is down and sales are weak. It is clear that there is a slowdown. And nothing has really been done to solve the key issues like the Euro crisis and sovereign debt crisis, so the next 12 months are going to be critical.”

Should the situation in Europe continue to worsen, it could have a trickle down effect on the United States economy, too, in the form of lower consumer confidence, Hackett explained. This would likely lead to a higher personal savings rate in the U.S. with the after effect being lower trade levels, with the warning signs on the economy intact. 

About the Author

Jeff Berman, Group News Editor
Jeff Berman is Group News Editor for Logistics Management, Modern Materials Handling, and Supply Chain Management Review. Jeff works and lives in Cape Elizabeth, Maine, where he covers all aspects of the supply chain, logistics, freight transportation, and materials handling sectors on a daily basis. Contact Jeff Berman

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