Northern Europe-Middle East trade falls


April container flows soften as industrial activity slows

Container flows on the Northern Europe-Middle East route fell in April, with exports out of Europe falling almost 2% and imports declining by over 4%.

A total of 85,073teu was moved, along with 19,852teu of dry and reefer cargo, according to the latest data published by Container Trades Statistics (CTS).

The figures are mildly disappointing, as the Middle East liner trades have generally held up better than many other routes, as high energy prices, at least until recently, fuelled imports of capital, consumer, food and fresh products.

The latter did perform much better, with the 10,931teu imported in April being up 16.5% on the 9,379teu moved in the corresponding period of 2011.

While exports out of the Middle East to Europe remain modest, reduced industrial activity in Europe, partly caused by the continent’s currency crises, meant volumes were well down on the preceding year.

In contrast to the softer cargo flows, ocean carriers benefited from higher rates in April as a combination of service rationalisation, ongoing management of supply and targeted general rate restoration programmes kicked in.

According to CTS, its index for dry freight container traffic moved eastbound was 81 points, the highest level since April 2011 and 5.2% ahead of March 2012.

In the westbound direction the CTS price index stood at 106 points, up 2.9% on March and the highest in several years. The CTS index is based on average prices recorded in 2008, the base year.

The question though is whether a recent softening in freight rates on the core Asia-Europe trade will spread to this region.