US-Asia trade Boatloads of growth

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According to Drewry records, March’s US data supports the general view that eastbound transpacific cargo is improving beyond normal seasonal growth. Backing the trend, full imports discharged at the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach, the main US gateways for Asian cargo, were 4.9 percent higher than during the same period of 2013. Market sources say that some cargo was shipped early in anticipation of stevedore strike action after 1 July, 2014, which may explain part of the jump, although March’s imports in isolation is not convincing (551,000 teu versus February’s 556,500 teu), said the research firm. Ocean carriers made few changes to their services between February and the beginning of April. Sailing cancellations remained the main tool for adjusting supply to demand, with February’s 31 sailing omissions being reduced to only eight in March and seven in April. Otherwise, just port pairs and slot swap arrangements continued to be modified. Also, average vessel capacity of core services only increased from 6,350 teu to 6,440 teu. The consequence is that the capacity of all vessels sailing from Asia to WCNA declined by 8 percent between January and February, down to 996,200 teu, but then rebounded by 10 percent in March, to 1,093,200 teu, followed by another 1 percent in April. Nevertheless, ocean carriers made few changes to their services between February and the beginning of April. Sailing cancellations remained the main tool for adjusting supply to demand, with February’s 31 sailing omissions being reduced to only eight in March and seven in April. Otherwise, just port pairs and slot swap arrangements continued to be modified. Also, average vessel capacity of core services only increased from 6,350 teu to 6,440 teu. The consequence is that the capacity of all vessels sailing from Asia to WCNA declined by 8 percent between January and February, down to 996,200 teu, but then rebounded by 10 percent in March, to 1,093,200 teu, followed by another 1 percent in April. The Georgia Ports Authority, which handles a majority of US-Asia container trade, achieved significant business gains in November, with a 6.6 percent increase in twenty-foot equivalent container units for the month, and a 7.3 percent increase in total tonnage across all terminals. The GPA moved 243,233 TEUs in November and reached 2,414,630 in total tonnage for the month. That compares to 228,184 TEUs and 2,249,431 total tonnes in November 2012. “New customers, combined with better than anticipated growth in the national economy in recent months, have boosted terminal throughput for November and for the fiscal year to date,” said GPA executive director Curtis Foltz in a recent press statement. New customers calling on Georgia’s ports range from imports by appliance makers such as Haier America Trading, to the expanded exports of Toyotas, Nissans and other vehicles. The Port of Savannah has also seen recent private investment in refrigerated cargo warehousing which supports Georgia’s poultry exports. “Georgia’s deepwater ports are capturing a growing market share because our efficient terminals make it easier and faster for customers to use our facilities, and our superior road and rail connections save them money reaching major markets such as Atlanta, Charlotte and Memphis,” said GPA Board Chairman Robert Jepson in a press statement. Meanwhile, the Port of Los Angeles has begun a multiyear terminal construction project that includes upgrading the China Shipping and TraPac terminals. The upgrades at the latter include pier-side dredging, extending berths, and installing on-dock rail. The Port of Long Beach has started the construction phase of the Middle Harbor Redevelopment Project, which will yield a new container terminal. “As cargo handling becomes more concentrated with larger vessels, automation and new equipment with improved environmentally sustainable power sourcing and efficiency are two important areas for terminal operations, to improve safety, reduce emissions, lower costs and increase productivity,” said a spokesperson from APM Terminals’ Asia-Pacific management team. The APM Terminals Global Terminal Network includes interests in 74 ports and terminal facilities in 40 countries across five continents and is the world's largest and most geographically balanced global port and terminal portfolio. New construction and existing facility expansion are currently underway in Africa, the Middle East, Europe, South America, and Asia. APM Terminals selectively chooses new projects with careful consideration to market conditions, the financial environment and opportunity for return on investment. Yantian International Container Terminals, which opened with 13,000 TEUs in 1994, increased its annual throughput to over 100 million TEUs in 2013. The port of Ningbo increased its capacity, resulting in an increase in annual throughput from 4 million TEUs in 2003 to more than 15.6 million TEUs in 2012. The Port of Guangzhou increased its annual throughput from 4.68 million TEUs in 2005 to 12.7 million TEUs34 in 2010. The port of Hong Kong increased its annual throughput from 22.6 million TEUs in 2005 to 23.7 million TEUs in 2010 without enlarging its footprint. Hong Kong International Terminals increased its efficiency by deploying an information technology solution. For example, the port automated its gates and yard operations, making drop off and pickup appointments, and texting container locations to drivers to keep trucks and container traffic moving. Over the past five years, the PSA Singapore Terminals have grown from 20 million TEUs to an annual throughput of 27.7 million TEUs. Talking about the challenges being faced in terms of terminal handling along the US-Asia route, the spokesperson from APM Terminals said, “The introduction of larger vessels into the global containership fleet has a cascading effect, as the newest vessels, currently the Maersk EEE-Class vessels of 18,000 TEU capacity, enter into the Asia-Europe trade, pushing the 10,000 TEU class vessels previously deployed in those services into the trans-Pacific routes.” The widening of the Panama Canal looks to enable passage of vessels of up to 12,500 TEUs, which means that impending all-water services from Asia to the US East and Gulf Coasts using these larger container ships will require similar upgrades for US East and Gulf Coast facilities. “APM Terminals remains an industry leader in terminal design and operations and will be ready for these vessels when they arrive at US ports,” said APM Terminals’ spokesperson with confidence. 

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