A survey of the Q1 figures more than 250 ports globally by Alphaliner showed volume growth of just 2.8%, which compares to 6.6% growth in the same quarter a year earlier and 4.7% in the final quarter of 2018.
“Weakening throughput growth in the year’s first quarter, and the expected decline in transpacific volumes as a result of an escalating US - China trade war, have weighed on full-year projections for container volume growth,” the analyst said in its weekly report.
The 2.5% growth projection for 2018 is significantly slower than the 6.7% growth in container volumes seen in 2017 and 5.2% in 2018.
The report noted that growth was uneven and the regions experienced a drop in volumes with Middle East port volumes falling by 10.1%, while Africa and Oceania volumes fell by 4.4% and 1.1% respectively.
“The weakness in Middle East volumes was caused by a 57% drop in containers handled at Iranian ports, while the transhipment hubs of Jebel Ali and Salalah also recorded declines of 9% and 12%, respectively,” the report said.
The African region was hit a by a 16% drop in volumes at South African ports and in Oceania the ports of Melbourne, Sydney, Brisbane and Fremantle all reported negative volume growth.
On a more positive trajectory Chinese ports, including Hong Kong reported 4.2% container volume growth in Q1 and North American ports 4.8%. However the outlook is not so bright.
“The escalation of the trade war between China and the US is expected to bring down container volume growth rates in both countries over the coming quarters,” Alphaliner said.