China’s port throughput continues to grow; export decline slows further

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Total throughput at China’s ports continued to increase in 1Q24, likely because recovering demand in the US and EU boosted container throughput, Fitch Ratings says.

China’s total cargo throughput rose by 6.1% yoy in 1Q24, supported by foreign trade volume, while container volumes at eight major ports rose by 10%. In addition, the ramp-up of the New Western Land-Sea Corridor increased Guangxi port’s volume by 20%, while volumes via the China-Europe Railway rose by 10%.

China’s exports by value fell by 2% yoy in 1Q24, decelerating from the 3% drop in 4Q23. The decline in exports to ASEAN and the EU slowed to 3% and 7%, respectively, from 9% and 10% in 4Q23. Exports to the US fell by 4% yoy in 1Q24, picking up from the 3% drop in 4Q23. Demand in these markets is gradually recovering, with exports to ASEAN up by 8% yoy in April 2024, while exports to the US and EU fell by 3% and 4%, respectively.

The Shanghai Containerised Freight Index rose by 107% yoy and 85% qoq in 1Q24, while the China Containerised Freight Index was up 19% yoy and 51% qoq. Shipping rates remained high due to conflict in the Red Sea.

Demand in the US and EU is likely to continue recovering, benefiting the throughput growth. The US manufacturing PMI stayed above 50.0 for five straight months in 2024. The eurozone manufacturing PMI rebounded to 47.4 in May, a 15-month high. However, the US in May announced tariff hikes on a range of Chinese imports, which might lead to escalation of geopolitical tension and temper growth in China’s port throughput.

Source: Fitch Ratings