Domestic trade eases fall in container volume

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 07 November, 2009, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 07 November, 2009, 12:00am

Beijing said the fall in container throughput volume at mainland ports would ease to 7 per cent for the full year, largely because of growing domestic trade.

Container throughput at the mainland's major ports will drop to 120 million 20-foot equivalent units (teu) this year from last year, compared with a 7.8 per cent decline in the first three quarters and an 11 per cent dip in the first half, according to the Ministry of Transport's website.

Catering for expanding domestic trade is the major factor mitigating the drop in throughput.

However, Shanghai and Shenzhen, the biggest and the second-largest mainland ports and ones that mainly handle ocean cargo, will still report a double-digit decline in throughput last month.

According to preliminary operational figures, Shanghai Port handled 2.17 million teu, a decline of 9.7 per cent from last year, widening from a 5.6 per cent drop in September.

Shenzhen Port also saw a 10 per cent year-on-year decline last month, with 1.63 million teu in containers being moved, compared with a 14.8 per cent drop in September, according to industry sources.

Both ports must brace for double-digit drops for the year if the throughput figures do not improve substantially for the rest of the year.

'Preliminary data from the mainland's largest container port hub has shown that volume recovery has started to taper off,' a Nomura report dated November 4 said.

'As the peak season ends, we believe that there is a good chance that both container freight rates and volumes would head back south by the end of the year to the early part of next year.'

Container ports with more exposure to domestic trade have better prospects.

Guangzhou Port handled 27.7 per cent more containers in September, which brought the overall decline in the first nine months down to 4.2 per cent.

Yingkou Port in Liaoning province handled 57.5 per cent more containers in September, and throughput was up 29.2 per cent in the first nine months.

The throughput growth of general cargo, including non-containerised cargo ranging from coal, oil and iron ore to agricultural products, has benefited from the country's robust demand for raw materials.

Cargo volume increased 6.1 per cent to 5.12 billion tonnes in the first nine months from a year earlier, compared with a 2.6 per cent increase in the first half.

Coal is a major contributor to the growth, as the volume of imported coal increased 2.9 times to 69.73 million tonnes in the first eight months. Iron ore import volume rose 29 per cent to 440 million tonnes.