Asia-US 2-month west coast boxes fall 9pc as US east coast rises 4pc
THE first two months of 2017 saw container volumes from Asia to US west coast fall nine per cent while east coast throughput increased four per cent and the Gulf coast soared 32 per cent, according to Piers data.
This follows full-year 2016 growth from Asia to the west coast of North America, including Canada and Mexico, of 4.6 per cent raising the total to 13.2 million TEU, reported Port Technology.
The fourth quarter of 2016 was particularly strong with volumes rising by 9.2 per cent year on year, representing the best quarterly rate in at least four years.
However, growth was somewhat inflated in that period as there was a sizeable portion of cargo moving in October that should have been carried under a Hanjin Bill of Lading in September, while December's numbers were also helped by the Chinese New Year occurring earlier in 2017 than in 2016.
Drewry Maritime Research, derived from PIERS and Container Trade Statistics, expects eastbound Asia-west coast North America volumes tracking lower than they did in 2016. This is partly because 2016 was artificially boosted by the fact that 2015 data was skewed by the widespread disruption at the US west coast ports at the start of that year.
Drewry also sees the rival east and Gulf coast ports taking greater share from the west coast gateways.
Drewry stated: "Our weaker forecast for Asia to WCNA is less a reflection on the strength of the US economy and more to do with shifting coastal trends. Incidentally, we also expect to see competition from the Canadian west coast ports of Vancouver and Prince Rupert continue to entice more US hinterland traffic away from the terminals on American soil, even if those cargo count as using west coast ports.
"The great unknown is what impact any of President Trump's more controversial policies will have on this trade, if indeed they do come to pass.
"If there was to be a showdown between Washington and Beijing it would probably develop over a period of time rather than just happen overnight.
"Therefore, short-term forecasts of trade growth for this year are unlikely to be affected by events on the world's political stage.
"It is unfortunate timing for carriers that the alliance re-shuffle coincides with weaker demand.
"The extra capacity and new entrant will add downwards pressure on spot rates and make obtaining higher BCO [beneficial cargo owner] contracts in an already over-crowded market that much more difficult."