1999 Container Trade Seen Mixed

Tuesday, February 22, 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. A trade director at 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 was driven by base commodities instead of luxury items, he explained. 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. However, 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. 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. Bunker prices, driven ever higher by soaring crude oil, continue to squeeze margins, particularly for shippers with older tonnage.
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