Protectionism blamed for global handling slowdown

The Port of Rotterdam was the eighth-highest port in the world for cargo throughput in Q1 2018 Photo: Frans Berkelaar/flickr/CC BY-ND 2.0 The Port of Rotterdam was the eighth-highest port in the world for cargo throughput in Q1 2018 Photo: Frans Berkelaar/flickr/CC BY-ND 2.0

Trade protectionism has been blamed for an overall slowdown in volumes at world ports in the first quarter of this year, with the throughput growth rate down 2.9 percentage points year-on-year.

That’s according to the Shanghai International Shipping Institute (SISI), who also cited “annual periodical factors” as a reason for the growth rate drop on last year’s figure.

However, the Institute's Global Port Development Report for Q1 2018, released in May, also showed that the cargo throughput itself of the major ports globally maintained growth in the first three months of this year, increasing by 3.4% year-on-year.

The report explained that in Q1 of this year, the world’s economy displayed clearer recovery signals, while manufacturing, consumption and investment continued to gain steam.

The key world ports’ container throughput increased 6% year-on-year to 77.2m teu, and global terminal operators’ overall operation stayed stable, with increasingly diversified investment.

All major terminal operators marked slower growth in equity throughput in Q1 2018 in comparison to Q1 2017 — with the exception of COSCO Shipping, which saw a hike in equity throughput from that period last year.

Report in depth

SISI revealed that the major Chinese ports handled 3.1bn tonnes of cargo in Q1 2018, but the growth rate fell by 4.1 percentage points — the lowest since Q4 2016.

The growth rate of China’s cargo throughput for domestic trade gradually slowed down, decreasing by 5.8 percentage points in Q1 2018, but Chinese ports above a designated size handled 1bn tonnes of cargoes for foreign trade, a rise of 5% year-on-year.

Meanwhile, major Australian ports’ cargo throughput increased by 7.6% in the first quarter of this year, while container throughput of major container ports in the Americas increased 4.8% year-on-year to 8.3m teu.

Additionally during Q1 2018, the global dry bulk trade increased and world ports’ overall coal throughput continued to go up, but the international iron ore market weakened and global ports’ overall iron ore throughput fell. The major global ports also displayed a polarisation trend regarding liquid bulk cargo throughput in the first quarter of this year.

According to SISI, in the first quarter of this year, COSCO Shipping Ports saw a total container throughput of 22.7m teu, increasing by 14.7% year-on-year, and also marked 7.7m teu of equity throughput (a year-on-year increase of 15.73%).

Ningbo-Zhoushan, Shanghai and Singapore, in descending order, were the top three ports in the world for cargo throughput in Q1 2018, all maintaining their places from the Q1 2017 ranking for this factor.

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