Global Port Tracker report holds out hope for second half of 2012
May 14, 2012 - LM Editorial
With Europe in a recession, it is being reflected in data in 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 container volumes across these six ports declined by 0.8 percent in February—the most recent month for which data is available—to 3.22 million TEU (Twenty-foot Equivalent Units). This represents a 2.8 percent annual decrease, while loaded volumes on a year-to-date basis are up 2.5 percent.
Imports and exports at 1.49 million and 1.29 million were down 17.5 percent and 0.4 percent, respectively from January and up 4.1 percent and 8.9 percent, respectively, on an annual basis. Year-to-date, imports are down 1.1 percent and exports are up 10.7 percent.
In his analysis of the report, Hackett Associates President Ben Hackett wrote that Northern Europe is in a mild recession, with the fourth quarter of 2011 and the first quarter of 2012 bearing that out.
Hackett explained that that “bitter medicine of austerity is not good for you in the short term,” while there is optimism that “it will prove to be good for the long term.” The austerity measures that are ongoing appear to be most significant in France and Greece, with pressure also on the German government to ease the spending cutbacks while the search for growth continues.
What’s more, he wrote that that there is no clear sign that the threat of a longer recession will force governments to ease up on austerity measures. And he cited various factors which could further impact the European economic outlook, including: the International Monetary Foundation making efforts to build up additional reserves in the vent that there are further crises in the Eurozone; an upcoming election in Greece; and high unemployment and debt crises in Spain and Italy.
But should conditions remain at current levels, the report said that the second half of 2012 should be an improvement over the first half.
With the lack of meaningful positive growth until the European economy truly comes back, Hackett explained in a recent interview that things will remain at current levels—with little to relatively strong growth—through the end of 2012 and into 2013.
In the previous Global Port Tracker report, Hackett noted that as demand remains insipid for the next few months, coupled with large new containerships being delivered, pressure remains acute for ocean carriers serving these European trade lanes.
This comes at a time when carriers are facing challenges in regards to getting rate hikes to stick, an overcapacity situation, and increasing fuel prices impacting BAF (Bunker Adjustment Factor).
“Carriers are facing multiple challenges at the same time,” said Hackett. “Retaining market share and trying to keep utilization rates up are the two main ones. Those go hand in hand when you have more capacity coming into the market.”
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