North Europe ports see decent volumes while concerns linger

The report indicated that total container volumes across the six ports increased by 12.1%, or 414,000 TEU (Twenty-Foot Equivalent Units) from February to March, the most recent month for which data is available, for a total of 3.84 million TEU, which it said would translate into a 4.6% annual increase.

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Amid a fair amount of global trade tension and uncertainty, ocean container volumes in Northern Europe were decent, according to the most recent edition of the Global Port Tracker report issued by maritime consultancy and the Institute of   

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

The report indicated that total container volumes across the six ports increased by 12.1%, or 414,000 TEU (Twenty-Foot Equivalent Units) from February to March, the most recent month for which data is available, for a total of 3.84 million TEU, which it said would translate into a 4.6% annual increase.

Some of the report’s key takeaways included:

  • Total imports to Europe fell by 1.4% in March, with a 0.7% decline in North Europe, and an 11.2% annual decline, a 4.7% increase in the Mediterranean and Black Sea region (up 2.3% annually);
  • Total exports from Europe were up 1.1% in March and were up 12% annually in North Europe (up 0.4% annually), as well as a 9.5% gain in the Mediterranean and Black Sea region (up 2.2% annually); 
  • for 2018, the report is projecting imports in the North Range to be up 5.1% annually, with exports pegged at a 4.9% increase; and
  • also for 2018 total imports to Europe are now expected to be up 5.7%, with a 3.5% increase in North Europe and an expected 9.4% increase in the Mediterranean and Black Sea region, with exports expected to head up 5.7% in North Europe and up 4.5% in the Mediterranean and Black Sea region 

Hackett Associates Founder Ben Hackett wrote in the report that “in a world of mixed economic indicators suggesting that we may have reached the peak of economic growth, trade continues to flourish,” with the projected 3.5% and 5.7% gains in North Europe imports and exports, respectively, marking export growth in five of the last six years, with exports up for seven years in a row.

But even though volumes are expected to increase, he did note that some key challenges remain intact for the ocean shipping sector in Northern Europe.

“The reality of the cautious growth vs. the new building orders and bringing in laid up capacity has hit home,” he wrote. “2018 is not going to be a good financial year for carriers, something that we have been saying for some time. Optimistic Maersk returned some poor results in Q1 and the rest of the field is not doing much better. The strategy of maintaining market share and diversifying away from core business does not seem to be paying off. In keeping with Maersk tradition will Mr. Skou shortly be looking for a new position?  Carriers are dropping out of the North Atlantic trade as the level of overcapacity hits financial results; can we expect to see similar changes on the Asia-Europe and Asia North America trades in the coming months? Putting the spare capacity back in lay-up, or even scrapping some of the 10 to 12K TEU capacity ships would help.”

Addressing global trade, he explained that in assessing the current state of things, he quipped that “nothing is what it seems to be,” as the sector finds its way through myriad contradictory trade policies and statements coming out of the United States, the European Union, and China. He also cited “political discontinuity” in Italy, Spain, and the Middle East, as well as the ups and downs of the intermittent Korean negotiations. 


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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