Market recovery in US, Europe gives Asia’s ports solid first half

Market recovery in US, Europe gives Asia’s ports solid first half

Yantian international container terminal. Photo: lzf / Shutterstock.comYantian international container terminal. Photo: lzf / Shutterstock.com

Asia’s ports reported strengthening of container throughput in the first half as the economic recovery of the U.S. and Europe drove up consumer spending and new export orders flooded into Chinese factories.

Asia-to-Europe container volumes were up almost 8 percent in the first six months, according to Container Trades Statistics, versus virtually no growth during the same period in 2013, and PIERS, the data division of JOC Group Inc., reported Asia-to-North America volumes were up 4.7 percent year-to-date through June, versus only 1.5 percent growth in the same period in 2013.

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More containerized exports out of Asia mean higher throughput at the region’s ports, so the increasing demand from rebounding economies is being spread around, as witnessed by first half results at some port operators.

The world’s largest container terminal operator, Singapore-listed Hutchison Port Holdings Trust, reported a 16 percent rise in first-half net profit on the back of improved U.S. and European cargo and greater transshipment volume.

First Half in Review Throughput at its Hong Kong terminals — HIT, Cosco-HIT and ACT — grew 7 percent to 6.22 million 20-foot containers, largely a result of the acquisition of ACT in March last year, while terminals at Yantian International Container Terminal (YICT) hit 5.18 million TEUs between January and June, a year-over-year increase of 5 percent.

Westports Holdings, the largest operator in Malaysia’s Port Klang, turned in an impressive first-half performance, with throughput rising 13 percent year-over-year and strong growth across all trade lanes. The port operator handled 4.02 million 20-foot containers between January and June, with the growth led by transshipment containers, whose throughput grew by 14 percent.

Malaysia’s southern port of Tanjung Pelepas saw its first-half container throughput rise by 7 percent year-over-year.

The main terminals at South Korea’s Busan Port handled a total of 9.115 million 20-foot containers in the first half of the year, an increase of 3.5 percent that was largely due to growing transshipment volume through Busan New Port. Of the first-half total, Busan New Port handled 5.9 million TEUs, up almost 10 percent, while Busan North Port processed 3.19 million TEUs, down 6.7 percent from last year.

China’s factory output and total new orders continued to grow, improving the operating conditions of mainland manufacturers. While this is good news for the second half, the first half performance of China’s top export ports improved on the back of this increasing foreign trade.

Container throughput at the top eight ports in China was up by 6 percent in the first half year-over-year, hitting 69.15 million 20-foot containers. A good first quarter had the year off to a solid start, and although growth slid to 3 percent in May, it rebounded strongly in June with an 8 percent rise.

Shanghai remained the busiest port in China, handling 17.24 million TEUs in the first half, up 5 percent over the first six months of 2013.

The port of Ningbo continued its double-digit growth in throughput, registering a 13 percent increase in the year to date over the same period last year with 9.55 million boxes crossing its wharves. Ningbo saw container volumes soar by 20 percent in April, 15 percent in May and 16 percent in June, all that after a strong first half.

By region, China’s Yangtze River Delta ports topped the growth list with a throughput of 26.38 million TEUs, an 8 percent year-over-year increase in the first half, followed by the Pearl River Delta ports, which recorded a 3 percent rosein throughput to 20.38 million TEUs. The Pearl River Delta was dragged down by the western Shenzhen ports of Shekou, Chiwan and Dachan Bay, which continue to lose market share to the eastern Shenzhen terminals at Yantian. Bohai Rim ports handled 19.88 million 20-foot containers in the first half, registering 5 percent growth.

Now the solid first half is in the bank, Asian ports are looking ahead to the peak season and will be encouraged by the high ship utilization rates on the major east-west trades and continuing rises in China’s factory output in July.

Export growth surged in July, with overseas-bound shipments growing by 14.5 percent year-over-year and beating all estimates.

Contact Greg Knowler at gknowler@joc.com and follow him on Twitter: @greg_knowler.