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.

Drewry’s global container port throughput index fell to 108 points in February 2020, 15.6% down month on month and 4.4% down year on year. The index plunged 20 points, which is the largest fall in a single month since the launch of the Drewry Container Port Throughput Index in January 2012.

Although volumes in February have usually been low because of the Chinese New Year, this year the steepness of the fall can be attributed to the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak which spread in China in January 2020, and by February 2020 it had started impacting port throughputs. The virus outbreak added to the woes of shipping lines which were already struggling with weaker markets and higher costs because of the new IMO regulations.

All regions, with the exception of Africa, witnessed a monthly drop in the February 2020 throughput index. China, the largest region in the index, crashed 45 points in a single month – the largest ever monthly fall. The drop to 91 points in February 2020 was a decline of 32.9% on a monthly basis and 16.4% annually. These throughput figures came as no surprise since we had expected a sharp decline because of the virus outbreak, and we project on-going declines in the coming months.

The February 2020 throughput index for Asia (excl. China) was at 120.8 points, 5.9% lower than in January 2020, but 4.2% higher than in January 2019.

North America saw a monthly drop of 10.9%, contracting the index to 123 points in February 2020, but the annual decline was only 2%. The pandemic forced factory closures across China beyond the usual New Year shutdowns which resulted in a drop in Asia-US cargoes. As a result, North America witnessed close to 60 blank sailings during the month. Meanwhile, Latin America witnessed the highest annual increase of 8% in February 2020, although the index was 2.1% lower than in January 2020.

Europe’s throughput index was down 2.7% over the previous month and reached 116.5 in February 2020, although the annual fall was much lower at 1.4%, with the first wave Chinese supply-side impact expected to be most evident in the March figures. We expect the European downturn to accelerate in the next few months with the spread of the virus into Europe supressing demand.

Contrary to all other regions, the index for Africa witnessed monthly as well as the annual increases in February 2020 to reach 106 points, 8% higher than in January 2020 and 6% higher than in February 2019. However, the caveat is that the index for Africa is based on a small sample.

* Note that the index figures for Africa are based on a relatively small sample, and should be viewed with caution

# All index figures for February 2020 are preliminary, subject to change next month