Mainlane trade volumes on the Asia-Europe headhaul route have risen by 8% in the first nine months of this year compared to the corresponding period last year, according to Clarkson Research’s Container Intelligence Monthly.
The increase follows an uptick in volumes in the second half of 2013, with northern European imports giving the strongest performance.
The trend is expected to continue, with Clarksons projecting growth of over 7% to 16.6m teu in 2015.
Growth on the transpacific lanes was slightly more subdued but volumes still rose by 5.6% in the first nine months of 2014, compared to the first nine months of 2013.
An improving US economy has helped lift import volumes from Asia and the International Monetary Fund expects the US economy to have grown by 2.2% by the end of 2014. Peak leg transpacific trade is projected to grow by 6% to 15.5m teu in 2015.
Nevertheless, Clarksons warns that the growth rates are a far cry from the 10% increase mainlane trades witnessed during the heyday of the early to mid 2000s. Following the financial crisis in 2008, mainlane trade collapsed by over 11% to 40.9m teu in 2009, with transpacific trade falling 15%.
In the years following the crash, growth on the mainlane trades was unconvincing and was followed by a further fall in 2012.
Despite this year’s recovery, the mainlane trades play a smaller part in global trade than in the past. While the mainlane container trade is expected to have grown by 9% between 2007 and 2014, volumes on non-mainlane trades are expected to have grown by 415% in the same period.
The share of world trade conducted on the mainlane trades has fallen from 36% in 2007 to an expected 30% in 2014, Clarskons said.
Nevertheless, the recent growth of the mainlane trades has helped boost global container trade volumes from 3.9% in 2012-2013 to an expected 6.4% in 2014-2015.
Figures on vessel layup from Lloyd’s List Intelligence also indicate demand for vessels on the mainlane trades. Of the 226 ships standing idle at the end of November, only 21, or less than 10%, were over 3,000 teu, indicating that demand for larger deepsea trade vessels remains strong.
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