After a difficult year in 2015, global container traffic made an extremely weak start to 2016. Container throughput at global ports grew by 0.5 % year on year in the first quarter – significantly below the already modest 1.4 % forecast made by market research institute Drewry at the beginning of the year. Given the current figures, experts estimate an increase in traffic of 2.3 % in the second quarter.
Following flat throughput in the first quarter, the Chinese ports gathered momentum in the second quarter with total growth of 3.2 %. The trend at Southeast Asian ports, however, was much more modest. The container port of Singapore in particular suffered a decline of around 5 % in the first half of 2016. The expected upturn for the north-western European ports failed to materialise in the first three months (Q1 2016: - 0.2 %). Nevertheless, Drewry forecasts an increase of 2.0 % for the second quarter. Following a period of recovery in the first quarter, container throughput in Scandinavia and the Baltic Sea fell again in the second quarter (Q1 2016: 0.3 %; Q2 2016: - 1.8 %). Container throughput at Russia’s Baltic Sea ports began to recover slightly. After a collapse in volumes in the previous year, container volumes here rose by 2.8 % year on year in the first five months of 2016.
Developments at the large container ports of the North Range and the port of Gdansk were again mixed. Rotterdam posted a 2.3 % decline in containers handled to 6.1 million TEU. Antwerp reported approximately 5.0 million TEU in the first half of 2016 (+ 4.4 %). The Bremen ports recorded 2.8 million TEU in the first six months of 2016, up 3.9 % on the previous year. Growth at the JadeWeserPort was driven by increased integration into the route network of the 2M alliance, which helped double throughput to 131 thousand TEU in the first quarter of 2016. In the first six months of the year, the Polish Baltic Sea port of Gdansk was able to compensate for the reduction in cargo caused by the Russian crisis in 2015. Container throughput increased by 27.3 % compared with the prior-year period and even exceeded the record half-yearly figure from 2014 by 3.8 %.
Against the backdrop of a challenging market environment, the end of 2015 saw a new wave of consolidation among container shipping companies, which has continued in 2016. All existing container shipping alliances are in a state of upheaval following the merger of the two Chinese state-owned shipping companies Cosco and CSCL, as well as the acquisition of NOL by CMA CGM. Hapag-Lloyd and UASC also recently announced their plans to merge.
Rail freight traffic in Germany recorded robust growth in the year to date. Compared with the previous year, transport volumes rose by 1.9 % in the period from January to April.
At the same time, traffic performance – transport volume multiplied by the distance travelled – increased by 4.6 %. At a European level, rail freight traffic decreased in the first quarter of 2016. While transport volumes declined by a total of 3.6 % across Europe as a whole, Central and Eastern Europe recorded a much stronger decrease of 5.3 %. However, trends in the individual markets were very mixed. Transport volumes in Poland and Hungary fell by 2.4 % and 1.4 %, respectively, compared with the first quarter of 2015, while rail cargo in the Czech Republic rose by 1.4 %. The decrease in traffic performance across Europe was less pronounced than the decline in transport volumes. The situation in Central and Eastern Europe was similar.