Growth in global container traffic was unexpectedly weak. Whereas growth in global container throughput of 4.3 % was forecast by market research institute Drewry for the second quarter of 2015, current figures put the actual increase for this period at just 1.6 %. Market indicators in October also point to significantly weaker throughput growth of 1.8 % for the third quarter, compared to expectations in July (4.6 %). The slowing economy affects almost all shipping routes. In China, growth halved year-on-year to 2.3 % in the second quarter. In July, the estimates for this period were 4.9 %. Experts now anticipate growth of 2.8 % for the third quarter.
The tide has also turned for the ports in North-West Europe over the course of the year. After forecasting a fundamentally positive trend until the middle of the year, Drewry was forced to downgrade its expectations significantly. 1.4 % fewer containers were handled in the second quarter than in the same period last year. Drewry also expects volumes to decline by 1.3 % in the third quarter. At the same time, the drop in throughput at the Scandinavian and Baltic Sea ports was much stronger than initially assumed. As a result, this shipping region contracted by 20.5 % in the second quarter due to a collapse in volumes at the Russian Baltic Sea ports. The downward trajectory is expected to stabilise at 19.6 % in the third quarter. The major container ports of the North Range turned in a heterogeneous performance. While Rotterdam and Antwerp handled 9.3 million TEU (1.0 % more than in the previous year) and 7.3 million TEU (8.0 % more than in the previous year), respectively in the period January to September, the downturn at the Bremen ports continued. A total of 4.2 million TEU were handled there in the first nine months (3.7 % down on the previous year). However, growth also slowed significantly in Rotterdam and Antwerp in the third quarter: at 5.2 %, Antwerp fell well short of the high growth rates seen in the first two quarters, which amongst others were attributable to volume shifts from Zeebrugge to Antwerp. Following growth in the first six months, Rotterdam even recorded a year-on-year decline of 4.2 % between July and September.
There was an overall decline in European rail freight traffic during the first half of the year. The volume of cargo transported was down 4.1 % year-on-year in the first quarter of 2015. In Central and Eastern Europe, 3.2 % less freight was transported by rail in the first three months. The trend stabilised in the second quarter but remained negative at 2.9 % and 1.1 %, respectively. According to Eurostat, the decrease in the transport performance – transport volume multiplied by the distance travelled – did not have such a strong impact at European level and improved slightly in the second quarter. Transport performance in Central and Eastern Europe even increased after declining in the first quarter.
Rail freight traffic in Germany was significantly affected by the wage dispute at Deutsche Bahn in spring. According to Destatis, transport volumes fell noticeably by 3.0 % year-on-year in the first six months. After declining every month from January to May, transport volumes in June 2015 were up 12.4 % on the same month last year. Overall, the transport performance was down only slightly by 1.1 % in the first six months. There was a particularly strong dip in intermodal traffic in the first half of the year, with transport volumes falling by 13.6 %. However, the figure for June was only 0.5 % lower than in the same month last year.