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Container volumes at Latin American ports up 1.7% in 2015

Container volumes at Latin American ports up 1.7% in 2015
Containerised cargo grew by 1.7% to 48m teu in 2015 in the ports in Latin America and the Caribbean, according to a report from the UN’s Economic Commission on Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC).  

“The figures confirm two trends observed in recent years in the region: a slowdown in foreign trade in container terminals and high heterogeneity of growth rates within the region,” ECLAC said.

The 1.7% regional average increase in port container throughput is higher than the rates of growth in 2014 (0.8%) and in 2013 (0.7%) but did not regain the level of previous years - it was 5.9% in 2012. The sluggishness of 2015 was mainly determined by the decrease of activity in five countries: Brazil, Peru, Puerto Rico, Trinidad and Tobago and Venezuela.

The total volume of activity in 2015 reached approximately 48m teu. The first 40 ports account for about 90% of the operations of this type of cargo in the region and the following 98 ports move the remaining 10% or 5.9m teu, the Chile-based UN organisation said.

The data collected indicate a great heterogeneity in the behaviour of port movements, both the sub-regional and country. In 2015, the east coast of South America saw activity decrease by 1.4% which was mainly due to the reduction registered in Brazilian ports movement. The WCSA shows a slight increase of 1.1%. The limited development of this activity in Chilean ports saw 0.1% growth and a 3.6% fall at Peruvian ports counterbalances the 6.3% growth rate in Ecuador and a 6.6% increase the port of Buenaventura in the Colombian Pacific.

Central America slightly reduced its growth rate going from 3.5% in 2014 to 3.4% in 2015 and the Caribbean does not show greater dynamism to keep their volumes in 2014 (+ 0.1%).

Top performers in 2015:

Santos, Brazil                             3,645,448 teu

Colon, Panama                           3,577,427 teu

Balboa, Panama                         3,294,113 teu

Cartagena, Colombia                  2,606,945 teu

Manzanillo, Mexico                      2,458,135 teu

El Callao, Peru                            1,900,444 teu

Guayaquil, Ecuador                    1,764,937 teu

Kingston, Jamaica                      1,653,272 teu

Buenos Aires, Argentina            1,433,053 teu

Freeport, Bahamas                    1,400,000 teu

As in previous periods, the reasons for the growth, slowdown or decline in port activity in the region are varied. For example, the ports of Cartagena 16.6% (Colombia), 8.8% Colon (Panama), 8.9% Guayaquil (Ecuador), Manzanillo and Veracruz 4.4% 9.9% (Mexico) and San Antonio 7.0% (Chile) scored the highest increases in volume due to the success of their projects and their commercial management.

Regarding the causes are various factors that have contributed to the low growth of container traffic in recent years, among which are: a stabiliaation in the conversion of general cargo or bulk to containerised; market share of manufactured goods has increased relative to raw materials transported in containers, and a tendency to reduce the size of manufactured products; a decline in the rate of outsourcing (offshoring) of manufacturing activities in Asia and especially in China; changes in the "in-balance" of traffic, which means traffic growth reduction of full containers in one direction affects the decrease in the volume of containerised cargo, as well as in handling empty containers; and the decline in the organisation of traffic, especially the increase in direct services to more ports, explained ECLAC.