Global Port Tracker report points to worsening European economic climate
June 06, 2012 - LM Editorial
The tenuous economic situation in Europe is having a more significant impact than previous estimates suggested, 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.
While the report did not provide specific TEU (Twenty-foot Equivalent) metrics, it did state that total ocean imports to Europe are expected to increase by 2.3 percent in 2012, with a 2.8 percent gain in North Europe and a 1.3 percent gain projected in the Mediterranean and Black Sea region, which the report said is “substantially weaker tan 2011.” From the fourth quarter of 2011 to the first quarter of this year, the report said that import growth was essentially flat but down 2 percent annually compared to same period the prior year, while exports were up 6 percent annually and down 1 percent on a quarterly basis.
On the export side, the report said that it forecasts total exports to increase by 4.7 percent in 2012 and by 6.7 percent in Northern Europe, with a 0.5 percent dip in the Mediterranean and Black Sea region.
Hackett Associates President Ben Hackett told LM that these projections portend a very weak European Peak Season.
“There are already reports out there saying that many ocean carriers are delaying or suspending their Peak Season surcharges,” he said. “That is not a good sign. It means shipments are expected to substantially weaken.”
And in his analysis of the report, Hackett said that the risk to trade due to the economic situation in Europe could be exacerbated by the partial collapse of the Euro that could lead to a recession and potentially take years to get out of unless new economic policies can be introduced that generate trade, which, he said, is hard to do with a high level of sovereign debt and an unstable banking system. He added that with the overcapacity situation regarding vessels still in effect as more vessels come on line, ocean carriers are likely to see operating losses through 2014 at this point.
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.
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