China port volume up, Hong Kong decline slowest in two years

China port volume up, Hong Kong decline slowest in two years

Qingdao, pictured, was one of the five ports of the eight busiest in China that had traffic increase in September.

China’s top ports booked a healthy rise in throughput year-over-year in September, taking year-to-date growth to just under 2.7 percent, as traffic declines at Hong Kong slowed to their lowest level in two years.

The eight largest Chinese container ports handled a combined 13.1 million 20-foot-equivalent units in September, a rise of 4.6 percent on the 12.6 million handled in the same month last year, according to the latest figures from the Shanghai Shipping Exchange.

The ports handled 114.5 million TEUs so far in 2016, up from 111.6 million in the first three quarters of 2015.

The numbers follow year-over-year volume growth of 7 percent in August and 4 percent in July that helped fuel speculation of a possible trade recovery for the second half of the year in the world’s second-largest economy.

That optimism was heavily eroded by dismal September trade numbers that saw exports tumble 10 percent in dollar terms while imports fell 1.9 percent. Analysts had broadly expected September exports and imports to be in positive territory in terms of value.

Of the top eight ports, Shanghai, Guangzhou, Qingdao, Dalian, and Xiamen all grew throughput in September. Container volumes at Guangzhou grew 14.3 percent year-over-year, the SSE numbers show.

Volumes declined at the ports of Shenzhen and Ningbo-Zhoushan. Singapore-listed Hutchison Port Holdings Trust said in its third-quarter results announcement that volumes at its Yantian International Container Terminals in Shenzhen fell 4 percent in the first nine months of the year due to less transshipment business as container lines rationalized their networks and services.

Container volumes through mainland China’s smaller ports of Yingkou, Suzhou, Nanjing, and Rizhao also rose year-over-year in September.

After months of heavy declines, Hong Kong’s Kwai Tsing terminals booked a throughput increase of 4.8 percent in September, to 1.3 million TEUs. However, a poor performance by the river trade component, wherein year-over-year volumes dropped 16.7 percent, pulled the port’s growth into negative territory.

Nevertheless, the overall 0.7 percent drop in throughput was the smallest monthly decline booked by the port of Hong Kong since August of 2014.

Hong Kong handled 14.1 million TEUs so far in 2016, representing a fall of 8.5 percent on the first nine months of 2015.

Contact Turloch Mooney at and follow him on Twitter: @TurlochMooney.

A version of this story also appeared on IHS Fairplay, a sister product of within IHS Markit.