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News : Global Economy Last Updated: Mar 30, 2011 - 6:27 AM

Global container shipping back above pre-crisis levels; 21% of containers empty on return China-US/Europe routes
By Finfacts Team
Mar 29, 2011 - 1:02 AM

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85% of container activity at Singapore relates to transhipment; 30% at Rotterdam

Global container shipping activity is back above pre-crisis levels. Meanwhile, because of the high level of China's exports to the US and Europe, an estimated 21% of containers return empty. 

Deutsche Bank Research in a paper published on Monday, says that global container throughput rose by at least 11% last year, after declining for the first time ever in 2009 (-9%). The level of global container throughput was thus higher again than before the crisis. The reasons for the recovery were the stockbuilding of industrial goods and the rapid upturn in Asia above all. 2011 will probably see container throughput increase by 7%.

DBR says about 12% of the fleet was out of service during the Great Recession compared with 2% at last count. In the meantime, prices (rates) have recovered, but they are still well below their pre-crisis record levels.

Although the next few years will see additional capacity introduced into the market - - and especially in the very large container ship segment - - demand is likely to grow faster than supply on average until 2015. Economist, Eric Heymann, says the problem of overcapacity will therefore be mitigated. In both 2011 and 2012 charter rates could rise by significant double-digit amounts.

Heymann says rising incomes in important emerging markets - -  above all in China - - may also enable the sector to mitigate the problem of unequal flows and thus reduce the share of empty container journeys (2009: 21%); this would result in considerable cost savings. To date, on routes from China to Europe and the US the share of laden containers is higher than on the return leg.

The status quo is positive for freight rates paid by European and American exporters.

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