Declines forecast for North Europe imports, exports

Declines forecast for North Europe imports, exports

Rotterdam harbor.

Persistent weakness in the eurozone economy will cause imports and exports through North Europe ports to decline this year, a new report predicts.

“We are seeing weak consumer demand and a consequent impact on the carriers who persist in continuing to provide far too much capacity, resulting in exceptionally low freight rates. 2015 could be as bad for carriers as 2009 was,” said Ben Hackett of Hackett Associates.

The dour outlook in the latest edition of the North Europe Global Port Tracker, produced by Hackett Associates and the Bremen-based Institute of Shipping Economics and Logistics, comes as Asia-Europe spot rates are struggling to recover from a steep fall this year.

The Port Tracker report forecasts containerized imports to North Europe ports will contract 0.8 percent, to 14.89 million 20-foot-equivalent units. Exports from the ports are forecast to drop 1.7 percent, to 11.74 million TEUs. Last month’s report forecast growth of 0.4 percent in imports and 0.2 percent for exports.

Declines in volumes at North Europe ports are expected to be offset by increased volume at Mediterranean and Black Sea ports, where imports are forecast to rise 6.6 percent, to 8.54 million TEUs, while exports are predicted to increase 11.1 percent, to 7.17 million TEUs.

Total European exports are forecast to rise 1.8 percent, to 23.43 million TEUs while exports are expected to increase 2.8 percent, to 18.91 million TEUs.

Hackett said upbeat forecasts of a strong eurozone recovery from the Greek crisis are wrong. He said consumer demand in Europe’s three largest economies, the U.K., France and Germany, is expected to be weak and be primarily for services and vacations.

“Despite the improvement in some of the basic econometric data, trade demand does not reflect the same growth,” he said.

The report noted shifts in market share among North European ports. The opening of the Maasvlakte II terminal has enabled Rotterdam to increase its share of the market to above 30 percent. Despite fears it would lose market share, Antwerp’s share rose to 23 percent in the first quarter from 21.4 percent in the third quarter of 2014, the Port Tracker report said.

Contact Joseph Bonney at joseph.bonney@ihs.com and follow him on Twitter: @JosephBonney.