Container traffic growth defies expectations

Port congestion in China has highlighted an unexpected upturn in world container traffic, which has grown robustly in the first quarter this year. In 2015-16, the average quarterly rate of growth for loaded container traffic was 2.3%, however provisional trade lane data from Container Trades Statistics (CTS) indicates that global container traffic may have surged by as much as 10%. 

Recent average volume growth for the six main carriers (who account for 30% of the global containership fleet) in Quarter 1 2017 is also indicating 10%. Statistics from marine research company Drewry reveal that inter-regional trade is the primary driver of this growth, with a massive 17% increase in volume growth (the equivalent of 2.6 million teu in just three months). While this growth is broad, it is clear that imports by China (where import traffic has increased by 28%) have been influential in the growth.

So what are the implications for meat traders?

China’s 2016 surge in pork imports is scaling back as domestic production recovers; however volumes of beef imported from Brazil, India and the USA are on the increase. For the UK, Hong Kong has become a key target for beef sale (last year it imported 350,000 tonnes of beef, up by about 25% on the year), while in January this year, beef shipments from the UK were up five fold.

Based on current new build vessel order books and delivery schedules, global container shipping capacity is expected to grow 8.4% in 2017, followed by 5.9% in 2018. For meat exporters, this will mean competitive prices as shipping companies seek to secure business. The weaker pound too means that export prospects are advantageous. UK products can now compete better on the continent and so shipments will account for a slightly higher share of production than over the last two years.

Capitalise on this opportunity by sourcing a reliable shipping agent who fully understands the complexities of this fast-moving market.

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