U.S. containerized imports and exports plunged 21 percent in the first quarter, with No. 2 carrier Switzerland-based Mediterranean Shipping Co. defying the trend with an 8.9 percent increase in import volume despite one of the worst periods in the history of containerized shipping, The Journal of Commerce reported.
The first-quarter numbers reported in the Top 40 Container Line rankings published in The Journal of Commerce July 20 edition were the first to show the full impact of the global economic crisis. Although trade began to slow early in 2008, container volumes did not start to tumble until early in last year's fourth quarter.
The slowdown in trade has forced ocean carriers to reduce staff and services and idle ships. Amid estimates that container ship lines could lose $20b this year, carriers in the Asia-to-U.S. market are asking customers to accept rate increases of up to 50 percent.
Mediterranean Shipping, which has expanded with the addition of large new ships, has risen in The Journal of Commerce's rankings from 35th in 1988. Geneva-based MSC posted a remarkable 8.9 percent jump in imports, making the Geneva-based carrier one of only six of the JoC Top 40 carriers with an increase in import volume.
Thirty-eight of the carriers on the JoC Top 40 lists recorded declines in exports, and 18 of the 20 largest lines on the list posted double-digit drops in export volume.
Denmark-based Maersk Line remained the largest carrier in U.S. containerized cargo, with first-quarter market shares of 11.8 percent in imports and 11.1 percent in exports. MSC was second in imports, with an 8.5 percent share, and exports, with 11 percent.
These and other trade statistics are analyzed in a special report on container shipping in the current issue of The Journal of Commerce, the weekly newsmagazine covering global trade and logistics.