1999 Container Trade Seen Mixed

Friday, February 25, 2000
Shipping container trade from Europe to Asia grew by 20 percent in 1999, but only by five percent for trade the other way, a senior shipping executive said. Tom Boardley, director of Europe-Asia trade at Anglo-Dutch group P&O Nedlloyd, said exports from Europe to Asia grew 20 percent in 1999 against 1998 and are now at pre-Asian crisis levels. "Growth has been driven by base commodities rather than luxury items," Boardley said. A weakening euro at the end of last year stimulated exports growth, he added. Japan remains the largest import market, accounting for a quarter of all European goods heading to Asia on container ships. But, Boardley said the highest percentage growth was seen in trade to China, Taiwan and Korea. Growth in container trade from Asia to Europe slowed to five percent compared with 15 percent in 1997-98 due to a combination of factors. "There was a tailing off of business from Japan, Singapore, Taiwan and Indonesia," said Boardley. Japan and Singapore's fall-off was viewed as part of a longer term trend while the drop in business from Taiwan and Indonesia were probably specific and short-term - respectively the earthquake in September and political unrest. Bunker prices, driven ever higher by soaring crude oil, continues to squeeze margins.

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