Last week’s vague statements by the Eurozone leaders about joint support for the growing banking crisis may not be all that it is meant to be. Short term indicators continue to point to trade slowing dramatically and the economy heading into recession. Trade volumes remain on the decline. 

North European import growth rates are sliding towards flat to negative territory and exports have been flat for some months. 

The latest new from the industrial heartland of Germany suggests that we shall see exports declining in the coming six months” noted Ben Hackett of Hackett Associates, which publishes the Global Port Tracker. 

The North Europe Global Port Tracker model suggests that for European import as a whole, the growth rate in 2012 will be around 1.5%, which is less than one third of what it was last year. 

North Europe will be weak as most of the countries are in or near a recession as defined by negative GDP growth. 

Exports from North Europe are projected to grow around 3% this year, once again a third of the growth experienced in 2011. 

The trend for the six North Range Ports, which also includes intra-European trade, shows a similar trend, with outbound volumes projected up 5.2% and inbound volumes by only 2.4% in 2012 viz 2011. Both of these growth rates are also sharply down on last year’s performance. 

For the six ports monitored, year-on-year gains are forecast in just half of the six coming months and in three of the four upcoming quarters. Worst hit will be Rotterdam, with its heavy dependence on the Far East. Antwerp is expected to remain relatively stable with some growth. 

Year-on-year drops are forecast for Rotterdam in each month through September, although annual growth is anticipated in Q4 2012 and Q1 2013. Incoming volumes are forecast to decrease by 4.7% in 2012, while outgoing volumes are projected to grow by 0.4%. 

Sönke Maatsch of the Institute of Shipping Economics and Logistics suggests that we will not see much change in market shares this year. 

“The accounts of container terminals will be much less affected by the recent slowdown than those of the liner operators. Even with very different pricing strategies, the market share shifts will be limited and mostly concern transhipment. 

“When the capacities are filled during the years to come, we may again see a ‘normalisation’ of market shares similar to what we observed during the past quarters.” 

The Global Port Tracker: North Europe Trade Outlook provides a six-month projection plus an additional two quarter forecast of inbound and outbound container movements in teus for the region’s six major container ports – Le Havre, Antwerp, Zeebrugge, Rotterdam, Bremen/Bremerhaven and Hamburg.

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