Global Port Tracker report calls for minimal growth in 2012
February 02, 2012 - LM Editorial
When it comes to economic conditions in Europe, it is not a stretch to say that things are likely to get worse before they get better. That is the consensus of 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.
The report stated that total import growth in 2011 was forecast at 3.9 percent for all of Europe (final 2011 numbers are not yet available), with Northern Europe exports estimated to be up 5 percent and the Mediterranean and Black Sea regions looking at 1.8 percent growth. But for 2012, the report is calling for no growth at all.
Looking ahead to the next six months, the report indicated that month-to-month decreases are expected for volumes in half of those months, although annual gains are being forecasted for January and May. And it added that each month’s changes—up or down—is likely to be in the single-digit range, with gains expected in two of the next four quarters annually that are also expected to be in the single-digit range.
In an interview with LM, Hackett Associates President Ben Hackett said that the prospect of no growth in 2012 is not surprising.
“The European governments have pushed so hard on austerity measures that in most countries it is raising unemployment and reducing GDP growth as a result,” he said. “Most GDPs went negative during the fourth quarter of 2011 if not all of them. The first quarter of 2012 is likely to be the same or even worse than the fourth quarter was.”
And issues related to the sovereign debt crisis, especially in Greece, has dried up the amount of credit available in Northern Europe very quickly, as Hackett explained banks are simply not lending and putting reserves away, because they don’t want to lose 70 percent of their loans to Greece and possibly to Portugal.
And between consumers being squeezed by rising unemployment, rising taxes, and tight credit, Hackett noted these factors make it difficult to see any trade growth.
“Because of this, there is still a lot of capacity available on the Asia-Europe trade lane, and the reduction in capacity has not been anywhere near what it has been on the Trans-Pacific,” said Hackett. “This will put pressure on freight rates. It is a case where capacity is not going down quickly enough, and demand is dropping more rapidly, which creates a situation where there really is overcapacity. Even if we see some growth in the second half of 2012, it is not going to be enough to show an annual growth rate.”
The report indicated that loaded outgoing volume for all of 2011 is expected to come in 9.1 percent higher 2011 than 2010 at 16.57 million TEU (Twenty-foot Equivalent Units), and the total volume handled, including empties, is expected to rise 7.5 percent at 40.05 million TEU, while the equivalent outgoing volume is expected to increase 7.1 percent at 16.80 TEU.
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