Drewry: Signs of Recovery Appear in North America-ECSA Trade

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The North America-East Coast South America container trade, which has had a poor year so far, is seeing signs of recovery in demand and freight rates as of late, according to shipping consultancy Drewry.

Latin America has the lowest port throughput growth forecast for this year, with total port handling expected to rise by less than 1%.

In the headhaul trade fell by 3.5% year-on-year after six months of 2018 to approximately 285,000 TEU, Drewry cited statistics supplied by Datamar container traffic. However, more recent data suggests that the export market is righting itself with August’s monthly volume being the best in at least two years and a 15% improvement on the same month last year.

Given the weaker purchasing power of ECSA consumers the relative sturdiness of the import trade from North America “is somewhat surprising,” Drewry said. Datamar numbers show that demand had risen by 5.6% after six months of this year to about 240,000 TEU and the growth rate increased its tempo further in July and August.

“It appears that the northbound trade from ECSA to North America is recovering, although it is likely to be an uneven ride. Don’t expect carriers to add more capacity until things settle down,” Drewry said.

There are only five weekly container services in the North America-ECSA trade with capacity largely controlled by four carriers: CMA CGM, Hamburg-Sud (Maersk Line), Hapag-Lloyd and MSC. The average size of the ships deployed is 5,400 TEU.

“With so few services it doesn’t take much to adjust capacity to a significant extent, but the key players have generally kept the supply level constant over the past few months, with a few missing voyages helping to reduce the slot availability in comparison to last year.”