We’re already more than two months into 2017, and so far it’s been a lot calmer than the tumultuous 2016 that led to a lot of dramatic changes in the container shipping industry. We’re also in the time of year when major ports around the world begin to release data about their previous year volumes, so we thought we’d take a look at some of the reports that have been shared so far.
Everyone likes positive news, and therefore ports themselves and their operators have both been keen on posting their growth numbers. Major ports like Hamburg, Rotterdam, and Antwerp reported growth in container volumes in 2016. In a year where demand did not meet supply, it is possible that the growth of some of the largest and most frequented ports came at the expense of smaller ports; however, ports handling as little as 50,000 TEU annually, like Stockholm, Marseille, and Ashdod still reported year-over-year growth (including an impressive 14.5% in Barcelona).
The opening of the expanded Panama Canal in July helped to grow container volumes on the east coast of the United States. The Port of Baltimore, the Port of Virginia, and the South Carolina Ports Authority all declared 2016 a record-breaking year in terms of TEUs handled.
Some terminal operators also handled more containers than ever before: Hamburger Hafen und Logistik saw positive growth not only in Hamburg but also Odessa; DP World’s numbers increased thanks to its portfolio in Asia Pacific and Europe; its global terminals helped PSA International make up for stagnant numbers in Singapore; and Colombo International Container Terminals in Sri Lanka experienced a 28% surge in volume, hitting the 2 million-TEU mark.
This strong growth looks set to continue in 2017 with many ports reporting strong numbers for January. The Port of Tauranga, which calculates growth based on fiscal year, is on pace to hit a major milestone by the summer.
Of course, ports aren’t required to share their annual numbers publicly, and as a result we are biased towards seeing a lot more positive growth reports, which may be disproportionate to the actual trade environment. However, some ports and terminal operators were still willing to share their data after what was undoubtedly a hectic and imperfect year.
Despite many ports on the US east coast benefiting from the Panama Canal expansion, the Port of New York and New Jersey experienced a decline in container volumes – but the raising of the Bayonne Bridge and development of the ExpressRail terminal should hopefully contribute to higher numbers in 2017. The Port of Long Beach, who until the end of the year was majority-owned by Hanjin Shipping, understandably saw volumes drop after Hanjin’s bankruptcy; luckily things are already turning around this year after the sale of the Pier T terminal. The Port of Piraeus suffered after MSC, one of its major customers, began calling other nearby ports.
We strive to update annual volumes in our Ports & Terminals module and our Market Intelligence files as soon as they are revealed. In addition, we share any press releases about port, terminal, and operator volumes on the eeSea news module, so you can stay informed.