Drewry: Northbound ECSA-Europe Trade Turning the Corner

The northbound East Coast South America – Europe trade is finally on the mend heading into the Brazilian fruit export season, shipping consultancy Drewry said.

Europe-East Coast South America trade shows that the southbound market continues to strengthen, while the long-time downwards trend for the northbound trade has bottomed out and starting to turn the corner.

Southbound container volumes from Europe have performed very well, registering year-on-year gains in 13 consecutive months, with seven of those months rising by at least 10%, including the last two months, Drewry cited data from Datamar.

After nine months in 2017, the southbound trade was up by 12% compared to the same period last year and is on course to match the 2014 annual total after a couple of lean years. This will be the first year since 2013 with any type of annual growth.

“The demand outlook for the northbound trade is much brighter, which will support further spot rate increases during the fruit export season,” the shipping consultancy said.

Split by region of export, growth from the smaller Mediterranean market was strongest, rising by 17% to 181,000 TEU after nine months. North Europe exports to ECSA increased by 10% to 442,000 TEU over the same timeframe.

Shipments in the more reefer-oriented northbound trade have fared less well and outbound ECSA traffic was down by 3% after three quarters. However, trade has improved markedly since the second quarter. Northbound volumes increased by 1.8% year-on-year in the third quarter, following three consecutive negative quarters.

By year-end, simply in terms of overall TEU, the ECSA-Europe inbound and outbound trades may very well end up closely matched, according to Drewry.

A variety of service changes have occurred recently in this route, which are expected to add an extra 30,000 TEU per month to the southbound market on average during the final quarter, and 20,000 TEU each month northbound.

“The additional capacity in the market has not done much to change southbound spot rates, which have stubbornly refused to budge from about USD 1,000 per 40ft container all year,” Drewry said, adding that stronger ship utilisation in recent months has supported gains of about USD 100 per 40ft in the more volatile northbound sector.

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