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China's major ports suffer record throughput falls

Hong Kong: The South China Morning Post reports that container shipping volumes at the mainland's two largest ports fell by the sharpest on record last month with throughput in Shanghai dropping 6 per cent and in Shenzhen by 15.7 per cent, and the situation could deteriorate.
"Fundamentals are still winding down," wrote Ally Ma in a Citi report, which cited the shipping statistics. "Chinese container ports will face negative growth in the first half and could be flat for the full year."
Shenzhen's average container throughput figure masks an even worse performance in terms of containers carrying goods, or "laden containers".
Last month, Shenzhen's outward-bound throughput of laden containers fell 23 per cent year on year, while its inward-bound throughput of laden containers plunged 27 per cent, according to Chinese port statistics.
The reason Shenzhen's average throughput decline in December was relatively better at 15.7 per cent was that the throughput of empty containers fell only 3 per cent, explained Sunny Ho Lap-kee, executive director of the Hong Kong Shippers' Council.
"The deceleration has become very rapid and horrifying," he said.
Shenzhen's exports will worsen in the coming months because the drop in the inward-bound throughput of laden containers last month was greater than the drop in outward-bound throughput, said Mr Ho. Inbound cargo includes raw materials and components which are processed into finished goods for export.
Shenzhen's container throughput growth has been negative since last September, when there was a decline of 2 per cent, according to mainland port data. It was in September that the financial crisis struck, shrinking demand for mainland goods.
"The Shenzhen port figures are a direct reflection of manufacturing in the Pearl River Delta," said Mr Ho. "The situation is quite serious as far as manufacturing in the Pearl River Delta is concerned. Hong Kong companies are the largest investor in Pearl River Delta manufacturing."
For the whole of last year, Shenzhen's container throughput grew 1.5 per cent, much slower than its 14.2 per cent growth in 2007 and 16.2 per cent expansion in 2006, according to Ms Ma's report.
Shanghai's container throughput grew 6.8 per cent to 28 million 20-foot equivalent units (teu) last year, according to Shanghai International Port (Group), which operates Shanghai port. This is slower than Shanghai's container throughput growth of 20.5 per cent in 2007 and 21.4 per cent in 2006. Shanghai remains the world's second-busiest container port behind Singapore.
Container throughput of the country's seven major international trading ports - Shanghai, Shenzhen, Qingdao, Tianjin, Ningbo, Xiamen and Dalian - grew 8.5 per cent last year, wrote Ms Ma. Growth was 19.8 per cent in 2007 and 21.5 per cent in 2006.
Ms Ma rated Cosco Pacific, a Hong Kong-listed port operator, a sell with low risk. The company has investments in 15 ports in Greater China, including Hong Kong, Shanghai and Shenzhen.  [14/01/09]

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