Chinese Ports Extend Global Container Lead

Chinese Ports Extend Global Container Lead

China’s ports are increasing their share of the world container market, while European and North American terminals still haven’t returned to volumes they handled before the global shipping slump in 2009, according to industry analyst Alphaliner.

Global container handling hit a record 608 million 20-foot equivalent units in 2011, based on Alphaliner’s data from more than 750 ports, of which Chinese ports, including Hong Kong, accounted for 188 million TEUs.

Although the global financial crisis hit total volumes and resulted in the first year of declining traffic in 2009, aggregate volumes still posted average annual growth rate of 4.5 percent since 2007.

Chinese ports grew at an annual rate of 8 percent between 2007 and 2011, the highest growth rate in the key container regions. Their total volume of 188 million TEUs in 2011 fell just short of the combined traffic of the next 10 largest countries’ 193 million TEUs.

Although most regions have recovered strongly from the 2009 slump, North America and Europe, which took the biggest hit from the crisis, haven’t returned to pre-2009 traffic levels.

North American traffic was hit particularly hard, falling by 1.2 percent annually, to 47.5 million TEUs in 2011 from 49.9 million TEUs in 2007.

Total European volumes increased just 0.7 percent annually during the period, driven by Russia, which grew 7.3 percent, while most other key European nations posted low growth or receded. North European ports handled 62.2 million TEUs in 2011 compared with 60.7 million in 2007, while traffic in southern Europe rose to 38.2 million TEUs from 37 million five years earlier.

Central and South America grew 6.1 percent annually to 42.1 million TEUs in 2011 from 33.2 million in 2077.

The Middle East, which posted 6.6 percent annual growth, boosted traffic during the period to 36.4 million TEUs from 28.2 million.

Africa was the fastest-growing region, albeit from a lower base, with traffic rising to 26.2 million TEUs from 18.7 million, an annual growth rate of 8.9 percent.

Contact Bruce Barnard at brucebarnard47@hotmail.com.