The post-pandemic boom that helped the global container port sector recoup Covid-induced volume losses, started to fade in 2022.
For the world's container ports, this meant a return to the days of moderate demand growth — a trend that had become a firm fixture for the industry pre-Covid.
The 100 ports featured in our latest rankings count achieved combined volume growth of 1.5% in 2022, with total liftings stacking up to 685.8m teu.
China's strong showing and resilient Middle East economies provided at least some relief to the year's otherwise subdued growth environment, helping offset the demand shortfall from a post-pandemic hangover — one felt most notably in Europe and across the Americas.
The plus point of a more moderate demand picture was that it granted ports — and container shipping in general — much-needed respite from the chronic congestion that had choked supply chains throughout 2021.
With one challenge over, however, another began. Indeed, the operational landscape for the world's top container ports did not get any easier in 2022.
Russia's invasion of Ukraine at the start of the year triggered a massive shock to a global economy still reeling from the effects of the worst pandemic in a century.
Energy and food prices skyrocketed amid a supply squeeze, doing little to lift the lid on inflationary pressure or quell sky-high interest rates in the Western world.
For the elite container ports, the turmoil in Eastern Europe further dampened an already bleak demand setting and quashed any hopes of a quick return to pre-pandemic norms.
China's contribution masked an otherwise flat global throughput performance during 2022, a year that was fraught with the reverberations of Russia's invasion of Ukraine and profound economic consequences
Congestion has ended, removing a revenue stream just as demand slows; but costs incurred during the pandemic — particularly for labour — are now baked in
Relief from the chaos of the past few years will be welcomed by terminal operators; but for container lines, a reversion to normal looks like overcapacity and lower earnings
Reglobalisation' is evidenced by the sharp decline in US port calls from China, while more boxships have arrived in Vietnam, Mexico and Russia
The shift of cargo volumes from US west coast ports to those on the east and Gulf coasts picked up considerable steam during the pandemic — especially in 2022. A tentative labour agreement on the west coast bodes well for restoring shippers’ confidence, but just how much cargo finds its way back remains to be seen
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