SHIPPING | South American box imports set for robust growth

Roger Hailey – LLOYD’S LIST

SOUTH America’s containerised import growth will outpace the region’s faltering export recovery in 2010, according to new research from UK-based industry consultants MDS Transmodal.

In its latest study, MDS said that it expected South American containerised exports to rise by 3% this year to 4.9m maritime loaded teu, though still not recovering fully from the 5% fall in 2009.

In stark contrast, the analysts anticipate “a very robust increase” of 26% in imports this year to 3.8m loaded teu, which represents “recovery plus growth” on the 2009 position.

MDS analyst Gail Bradford said:

“Unpicking the forecasts into broad commodity groups, we believe that South American exporters will still be suffering the effects of the global slowdown for some time to come, impacting on exports of consumer goods and manufactured items in particular, with the brunt of this being felt in Brazil.

“In comparison, the growth in food consumption globally has continued unabated and this has been to the benefit of food exporters, especially in Chile.”

MDS said that this was reflected in export box volumes on trade lanes out of east coast South America, which were down by 11% in 2009, while west coast routes experienced a 5% increase in loaded volumes in the same period.

“But next year focus will fall on the growth in exports in the opposite direction, that is, into South America, and we think signalling far better capacity utilisation on the inbound routes,” Ms Bradford said. “Elements of our analysis point to across the board improvement in import trades, though the east coast dominates, with a 30% increase in imported volumes is forecast.”

Looking at the supply side of the equation, MDS said that the last four years had seen “significant changes” in shipping capacity deployment to South America, mainly led by major capacity increases on routes from the Far East, especially to the east coast, and from northern Europe, especially to the west coast South America.

“There may have been some tempering of the trend during 2009, but not that much. The 5% drop in export volumes from South America has not impacted on shipping lanes in the same way that arterial routes have been affected by the recession in North America and Europe,” Ms Bradford said.

“It is not surprising, however, that we have seen much reorganisation among the lines operating on these routes, partly because Argentine operator Maruba pulled out of many deep sea services following financial difficulties last year.

“MSC, meanwhile, has been doing many interesting manoeuvres pulling new capacity onto its existing strings and starting new ones. MSC now deploys the largest ships on the North Europe-WCSA route, averaging 4,700 teu capacity.”

Elsewhere, ship sizes also continued to grow, said MDS. On the North Europe-East Coast South America route, Germany’s Hamburg-Süd is planning to replace its 5,900 teu ships with 7,100 teu newbuildings, including 1,600 reefer plugs, when commissioned later this year.

Maersk will quickly follow suit with 7,450 teu/1,700 reefer plug ships, which will begin to join the fleet in 2011.

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