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Box port growth forecasts set lower over trade war

Amid rising US-Sino trade tension, Alphaliner slashes its 2019 estimate for global throughput growth from 3.6% and 2.5%. The analyst also attributes the impact of weaker than expected growth through the first quarter of the year to its revised forecast

Carriers have already started to pull capacity next month ahead of an expected drop in transpacific demand

ESTIMATES for container throughput growth forecasts for 2019 have been lowered as trade tensions between the US and China heat up.

Nevertheless, despite the growing uncertainty shrouding global trade because of the prospect of raised tariffs on US imports from China, and subsequent retaliation, global port throughput numbers are expected to remain positive, analysts say.

Global throughput growth across the container port sector will though be a far cry from the numbers achieved in 2017 and 2018, when increases were recorded at 6.7% and 5.2%, respectively, according to Alphaliner.

It has cut its full-year growth estimate from 3.6% to 2.5% on the basis that transpacific volumes will be lower than expected, but also in account of “weakening throughput growth” in the first quarter.

Sampling more than 250 ports, Alphaliner noted growth of just 2.8% in the first quarter, compared with 6.6% growth in the same period one year earlier and 4.7% recorded in the final quarter of 2018.

Growth in the first three months of 2019 was also largely fragmented.

“Several emerging markets have posted negative cargo volume growth and thus pulled down the global growth rate,” said Alphaliner.

In terms of regions, Alphaliner noted declines in total liftings across Africa, down 4.4%, and Oceania, falling 1.1%, but a significant 10.1% drop in combined volumes in the Middle East during the first quarter of the year.

Elsewhere, it was North American and Chinese ports that reported the most gains, rising 4.2% and 4.8% although growth between facilities was disproportionate.

However, the escalation of the trade war between China and the US is expected to bring down container volume growth rates in both countries during the coming quarters, Alphaliner said.

Indeed, it said that carriers have already responded to an expectation of softening demand with the Ocean Alliance voiding two transpacific sailings through June.

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