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Emerging markets spur global container trade

According to the latest report from Clarksons, the world’s largest shipbroker, trade from the Far East to a bloc of emerging economies – notably South America, Africa, the Middle East and Indian Subcontinent – has increased dramatically to become a key driver of global container shipping.

The report indicated that trade between the Far East and these developing economies was up 16% on a year-on-year basis in the first four months of the year. This represented a 30% growth compared to 2019, the year before the Covid-19 pandemic hit.

Following a stagnant 2023, in which container trade grew by just 0.6% from 2022, container shipments amounted to 58 million TEU between January and April, an 8% increase from the year-ago period. This also marked the strongest start to container shipping in any year.

Commented Clarksons analyst Thomas Grant: “Far East-Latin America trade has been aided by a notable increase in the exports of industrial goods, as well as strong vehicle/vehicle parts imports (partly ahead of planned tariff hikes in Brazil), while trade growth on the Far East-Middle East/Indian Subcontinent has been driven by firm economic growth in the region as well as increased investment in manufacturing facilities in India as US companies look to relocate manufacturing processes amid a focus on ‘friendshoring’.”

Far East-Africa trade has been boosted by Africa becoming a new market for China’s finished goods exports, while the continent is growing as a source of raw materials.

Mr. Grant continued: “So, container trade appears to be on track for a stronger year after a challenging 2022-2023, with economic headwinds easing in key regions. Red Sea rerouting is having a profound impact in TEU-mile terms, but for underlying trade volumes, a number of rapidly emerging trade lanes are clearly coming to the fore.”

(Dreamstime photo of Port of Rio de Janeiro)