24-07-2018

East Coast righting itself

Demand growth has returned to the Asia-East Coast North America after a couple of bad months. It’s unclear whether the US-China trade war is factoring into carriers’ network decision making.

Having become accustomed to break-neck growth, the volume of container traffic between Asia and East Coast North America was disappointingly low for carriers in April and May, but things appear to have returned to normal in June. Container shipments from Asia to ECNA slumped by 13% year-on-year in April and followed that with an 8% drop in May, according to pooled statistics from PIERS and CTS. In the first three months volumes were up by 19%.

There have been anecdotal reports of shippers bringing forward cargoes as a pre-emptive to the US-China trade war, which might have inflated first quarter growth and deflated second quarter shipments, but the heady pace of annual growth in June for US imports as recorded by PIERS, when demand to the East and Gulf coasts increased by a combined 19.5%, indicates that it is too early to draw conclusions about shipping patterns. June data from CTS relating to Canada and Mexico is not yet available.

It is possible that shippers did indeed expedite some cargoes when the US tariffs were first announced in mid-March, but when it later became clear that the actual list of affected goods were largely non-containerised normal service was resumed. It remains to be seen whether the same phenomenon occurs if and when the proposed second wave of tariffs affecting $200 billion of Chinese exports (inevitably involving more containerised goods) is approved and comes into effect in September.

Source: Drewry

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