FreightWaves expects virus to drive 10pc US-China box import drop

CONTAINER imports into the 10 biggest American ports fell 4

25 February 2020 - 19:00

CONTAINER imports into the 10 biggest American ports fell 4.1 per cent in January, narrowing the loss from December's 12.5 per cent decline and November's fall of 6.5 per cent.

But while the dynamics of year-on-year comparisons in these early months are fraught with difficulties, an actual detailed measure indicate an appreciable downward trend, said a FreightWaves commentary.

Last week, a 23,000-TEU ship reportedly departed China en route to North Europe with only 2,000 laden TEU. One report claimed only 50 per cent of dockers are on duty in Shanghai, the world's largest container port.

The six-month trailing numbers are down for the fifth straight month - to a 4.6 per cent decline - and the 12-month trailing, are down for the ninth straight month, to a 1.8 per cent decline.

With tariffs still in place, the downward trend would continue for the first nine months of 2020 resulting in a 10 per cent actual decline, similar to the fourth-quarter experience.

The reprieve in January will be short-lived, but not just because of US tariffs. A new negative comes from the coronavirus, now impacting supply chains.

The spread of the virus and its ramifications have grown exponentially. US inbound loads weren't affected in January and the impact in February will be moderate. But the coronavirus impact on March will be significant, said the commentator John McCown.

The coronavirus impact first resulted in at least a one-week holiday extension that kept factories throughout China closed. Reports point to extensive quarantines and reduced activity, even after the holiday ended.


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