The Drewry Container Port Throughput Indices are a series of volume growth/decline indices based on monthly throughput data for a sample of over 220 ports worldwide, representing over 75% of global volumes. The base point for the indices is January 2012 = 100.
In March 2020, the global container port throughput index bounced back to 124.5 points after declining 20 points in February 2020. The February decline started with the Chinese New Year holiday but was deeper than expected due to the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak in China which impacted export volumes. The bounce-back in March 2020, although representing a 15.2% gain on February 2020 still failed to achieve the January 2020 level of 128 points, and is still close to six points lower than the year-ago figure of March 2019.
After witnessing the largest-ever fall in February 2020, the leading region – China – saw the largest monthly growth of more than 40 points (44.3%) in March 2020. However this was around 7.3 points (5.2%) lower than in March 2019. A proportion of this gain can be attributed to ports handling the back-log of cargo that had been held up in February, but by late March 2020 Chinese factories were re-opening.
The North America throughput index further declined by 5.5 points (4.5%) in March, following the steep fall in February 2020. The index was 18 points lower (13.4%) than in March 2019. The US-China trade war was already impacting port throughput, and the situation worsened as the extended factory shutdown in China following on from Chinese New Year was felt first on the transpacific trades. March 2020 throughput for Los Angeles, the Largest port in the USA, was 44% less in March 2020 compared to January 2020.
Europe’s and Latin America’s March throughput index results of 116.6 and 106 points were almost the same as in the previous month, but the annual trend was different for both regions. Europe’s index was 5.7% lower, with Mediterranean ports feeling the effects of the Chinese port disruptions, whereas in Latin America the index was 3% higher than March 2019, with strong growth at Panama’s transhipment hubs in Manzanillo and Balboa, and rising volumes at Santos and Parangua in Brazil.
The index for Africa witnessed monthly as well as the annual declines in March 2020. The index dropped to 95 points, 11 points (10.4%) lower than the level in February 2020, and was at the lowest in 50 months (since January 2016). However, the caveat is that the index for Africa is based on a small sample.