China’s ports saw growth slow in the first half of the year as European import demand softened.
The ports handled 2.94 billion tons of cargo in the first six months of 2012, up 7.4 percent from a year earlier. However, the rate of growth was far slower than the 13 percent recorded in the first six months of 2011.
Throughput at container ports increased by 8.8 percent year-over-year in the first half of 2012, but northern container ports less reliant on export cargoes continue to outperform those in the Pearl River Delta.
Ports in the Bohai Rim have seen far faster growth for much of the year, and in June average throughput increased by 15 percent year-over-year. Dalian, for example, reported 26 percent year-over-year growth last month.
By contrast, the port of Shanghai, the largest in China, handled 15.9 million 20-foot-equivalent units in the first half of this year, up just 3.6 percent compared to a year earlier.
Shanghai’s growth in June accelerated to 6.4 percent year-on-year, but Pearl River Delta volume growth slowed to 1.1 percent, down from 6 percent growth in May.
Bonnie Chan, an analyst with Macquarie Equities Research, said ports in the north were benefiting from substantial import business and were less reliant than PRD ports on external demand. “Although Chinese exports grew 11.3% in June, the European debt crisis is having an impact on export sentiments,” she told JOC.
“Leading indicators are not encouraging, with the PMI Export New Order falling from 50.4 to 47.5 in June. This is the first time it has dropped below the expansion level since January,” she said.
Growth rates will continue to diverge, she said, with ports in Northern China outperforming traditional export ports such as Shanghai and Shenzhen. Although macro uncertainties remain and leading indicators are pointing to a slowdown in growth, the container port sector should still average growth in the high single digits and could meet Macquarie’s estimate of 9 percent.
Although China’s overall export growth has slowed, its car makers are bucking the trend. China exported 487,900 units in the first half of the year, up 28 percent year-over-year, according to the China Association of Automobile Manufacturers.
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