As economies continue to recover, global container trade is expected to grow by 5.8% this year.
The IMF recently revised its forecast for global GDP growth this year to 6%, suggesting that container volumes are set to follow economic growth.
However, according to an analysis issued by Alphaliner suggests that, in fact, the opposite will occur, and “the long-term trend shows a continued decline in the teu-to-GDP growth multiplier, which links container traffic to global economic growth.”
He explains that, in the 1990s, the teu-GDP multiplier hovered around the 3.4 mark and began to decline with the turn of the century: in 2000, GDP grew by around 5%, while container volumes grew by 12.5%.
From then until the 2008 global financial crisis, the multiplier averaged 2.6, then fell further to 1.4 between 2010 and 2019.
The analyst said, “Since 2015, four individual years have fallen below 1x, a situation that may repeat itself in 2021.”
“The data appears to reflect increased protectionism efforts around the world and a decline in overall global cross-border trade, and removes what was once a key indicator for the industry.”
According to Drewry, global container port throughput declined 1% last year, with 793 million teu handled by ports around the world, which, in volume terms, represented a 9 million teu drop from 2019. Meanwhile, global GDP contracted by 3.3% in 2020.
However, Alphaliner warned that the necessary trade forecasts had to be made. He explained, “Yield forecasts for this year are subject to a great deal of uncertainty, due to vaccine uncertainty, while the impact of high consumer demand could be held back by tonnage shortages.”
For example, despite rising global container demand, Hapag-Lloyd’s recent first quarter results showed a year-on-year volume drop of 2.6% to 3 million teu, which it attributed largely to capacity shortages, in terms of vessels and boxes, as well as port congestion.