More Asian Cargo Destined For East Coast Ports at Expense of West
The Asia-to east coast North America trade is growing strongly, bringing with it a host of new services, and rate instability. So says a report recently released by the London-based Drewry Shipping Consultants.
Volumes in the Asia-ECNA trade posted double-digit year-on-year gains for the ninth consecutive month in May. Including Canada and Mexico, eastbound flows expanded by 19 percent during the month while year-to-date volumes registered an increase of 23 percent. Drewry projects a similar picture will emerge for June. “The 12-month rolling growth average,” the consultants say, “is now trending above 16 percent.”
Significantly, the trend of cargo switching from a west-coast “discharge to an eastern seaboard delivery is showing no signs of abating,” says Drewry. For the second quarter, Asian exports destined for U.S. east coast ports grew year over year by 22 percent, marginally lower than the 23-percent increase recorded in the first quarter, while west coast terminals handled 2.4 percent less Asian cargo
“Under normal circumstances,” according to Drewry, “the U.S. Pacific ports could have expected similar levels of growth.”
The East Coast ports have handled the additional volume well, by Drewry’s estimation, especially considering the boom in westbound transatlantic trade. Between January and May, the number of import boxes handled at New York rose by 12.6 percent, while offloading at Norfolk grew by 11 percent, at Savannah by one-third, and at Charleston by 15.3 percent.
Six new services were begun during the second quarter, five via the Panama Canal and one via the Suez Canal. Capacity in June stood 18.5 percent higher year over year. Besides inaugurating new services, the carriers are order new tonnage specifically for the east coast route.
China Shipping Container Lines is reportedly ordering eight new 14,000-TEU vessels while Maersk announced that it had ordered nine similar ships and Yang Ming is in the market for ten.
Most of the major ports along the eastern seaboard should be able to handle containerships of this size,” noted Drewry.
As far as rates, the additional services compromised the ability of carriers to sail out of Asia full to capacity, as they had been doing. As a result, rates fell by over 18 percent compared to last year. Also of concern to carriers is that current spot rates from Asia to the U.S. east coast have fallen below contract prices negotiated earlier this year.
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