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China’s container decline accelerating

China is heading for an up to 5 percent decline in container volume in 2020, according to Alphaliner, the authoritative maritime research firm, which noted that the initial shock of an extended factory shutdown amid the COVID-19 pandemic has been compounded by reduced global demand for Chinese products.

Chinese ports account for one third of total world container traffic, or approximately 230 million TEUs. Seven ports in China are ranked in the top ten.

This will be only the second year since 1970 that China has reported negative growth in annual container volume.  Alphaliner nevertheless commented that the predicted throughput decline was still not as big as the 6.1 percent record plunge in volume posted during the global financial crisis in 2009.

Total container volume handled at China’s coastal ports, including Hong Kong, fell almost 16 percent in February year over year. 
Chinese ports recorded a 5.9 percent decline in volume in January compared with the same month in 2019, with volumes affected by the early Chinese New Year that fell on Jan. 25 this year. When spread over January and February, two-month volume declined 10 percent year over year, Alphaliner noted.

Apart from ports in Hubei Province, all other Chinese ports have resumed normal operations since the end of February, but volumes have not fully recovered to their pre-holiday levels.

çAlphaliner predicts further volume decline in March, with considerable uncertainty on the outlook for the rest of the year. This will have a major impact on global container volume, as already reflected by the cancelling in February alone of more than 100 sailings by ocean carriers on routes from Asia to North America and Europe, according to the UK-based Drewry shipping consultancy. (photo Hong Kong Maritime and Port Board)