According to Shanghai International Shipping Institute’s (SISI) latest Global Port Development Report of Q3 2017, major global economic indicators remained at high levels, suggesting that the ongoing global economic recovery remains intact and as such global trade has been gradually picking up leading to a faster pace of seaborne trade volume growth.
Third quarter port rankings by cargo throughput remained stable, with the top three ports of Ningbo-Zhoushan, Shanghai and Singapore retaining their rankings and keeping up good growth rates of 11.3%, 16.7% and 7.0% respectively.
Notably, Tangshan Port enjoyed a surge in cargo throughput, growing 16.5% in the third quarter and lifting it two places from sixth to fourth place, and dispatching Tianjin to eighth place as the major commodities port was hit by the ban on road transport of coal.
In the third quarter, cargo throughput of the world’s major ports grew by 6.4% year-on-year to 1.52bn tons, a significant rise from the previous corresponding quarter but easing slightly from the 6.8% pace seen in the prior quarter.
Bulk cargo throughput growth was patchy however. Major Chinese ports such as in Hebei saw robust growth in dry bulk cargo throughput, while major European ports such as Rotterdam and Antwerp saw growth slide.
It was a similar but more exaggerated picture on the liquid bulk side, with throughput at major Asian hubs such as Singapore and South Korea enjoying robust growth, while Rotterdam saw throughput fall 10.5%.
Highlighting various trends from the third quarter figures, SISI noted that China’s major ports saw domestic-trade cargo throughput rise 8.9% year on year, maintaining the more than 7% rate seen since the beginning of the year.
SISI attributed the strong growth to ongoing government reforms in the domestic trade market and the development of the Yangtze River and coastal water transport networks under the Yangtze River Economic Belt national strategy.
Another key trend is the robust growth at major South Korean ports, which grew 8.8% to 385m tons. This was due to the improved environment for foreign trade and more favourable conditions for imports and exports in South Korea, SISI said.
Imports outpaced exports, with the latter growing 4.2% to 106m tons and import cargo throughput growing 8.8% to 209m tons. Among the 13 major export categories, steel, petrochemicals were major components achieving a double-digit growth rate, although all export categories also rose.
Finally, in the major bulk trades, the drop in China’s iron ore demand had a detrimental impact on the growth rates of iron ore throughput of Australian ports, with major iron ore port, Hedland Port, only seeing 1% growth in the third quarter.
In the main container trades, steady growth in the US economy has led to better trade figures. As a result, container throughput at major US ports all enjoyed positive growth.
Among the major ports, Long Beach and Vancouver displayed outstanding performance, recording double-digit growth rates posting third quarter container throughput of 2.1m teu and 856,000 teu respectively.
Among other major ports, Virginia, Houston and Montreal ports kept pace, with throughput growth of 5.85%, 6.29% and 5.77%, respectively.
It was a different picture at the European ports with ongoing reorganization among the alliances causing congestion at the ports of Rotterdam and Antwerp in the third quarter, with barges waiting as long as 48 to 120 hours. This resulted in throughput slipping 4.4% and 2.4% respectively from the previous quarter.
Port efficiency at European ports dropped and overall throughput growth slid to 1.1%, down 3.3 percentage points quarter-on-quarter.