China's firm policy on the Covid-19
pandemic has created a climate of port closure and operational restrictions, as
seen in both Ningbo and Shanghai, according to the latest Sea-Intelligence
The Danish analysts said that if we take
the Chinese New Year as a parameter, these restrictions will probably have
reduced some burden on the volume flows from China, but at the same time will
have created additional backlogs
"In order to make possible the
visibility of the changes for the ports of the West Coast of North America, in
the first quarter of 2021, we must visualise the changes without unduly
distorting the picture due to the instability in 2020-2021," said
On an annual basis,
the laden inbound volumes contracted heavily in the second half of 2021, but the annualised growth over 2019
shows that this is more an artefact of strong 2020 second half growth.
When annualised over 2019, January 2022
volume growth was in line with January 2019, contracting by a marginal -0.1%,
while February grew by 6.8%, which is within the range of what we have seen for
most of 2021. March 2022, however, grew by 14.2% when annualised over March
2019, which is the strongest growth in almost a year.
"This spike in March 2022 is possibly a result of the backlog that
was cleared after the port closure of Ningbo earlier in the year and then
Chinese New Year that followed, as well as the initial operational restrictions
in Shanghai more recently," commented Alan Murphy, CEO of
2022, cargo exports shrank at a rate of 5%-10% slower, compared to 10-15%
observed in the second half of 2021.
At the same time, although carriers continue
to prioritise empty container exports from the West Coast of North America,
growing at a rate of about 20% in the last 18 months, in January-March 2022,
cargo exports shrank at a rate of 5%-10% slower, compared to 10-15% observed in
the second half of 2021.
Perhaps this is because the closing of
the port of Ningbo for 14 days in early 2022 resulted in a pile of empty
containers in the port, containers that had been unloaded before the port
closed and had since been emptied.
"It is possible
that the carriers deemed that level of empties as sufficient for the time being
and therefore cleared out some export cargo from the North America West Coast
ports," added Murphy.