From January to June, China's largest river port Suzhou recorded a weak year-on-year growth of six per cent, 10 percentage points down from the rate of 17 per cent a year ago. According to Suzhou Transportation Bureau port office director Xu Minghua, the port is readjusting its growth target to 10 per cent down from 20 per cent.
Port of Zhangjiagang, part of the Suzhou port cluster, saw a fractional foreign trade increase of 0.6 per cent in the first five months. Its throughput in May slid 12.9 per cent year on year.
Being the world's largest port, Shanghai also felt the slippage with only a 3.6 per cent uptick in volume in first half container traffic to 15.86 million TEU, against a 9.2 per cent's increase last year. Shanghai International Port Group (SIPG) president Zhuge Yujie expects two to three per cent growth this year to 32.5 million TEU.
Tianjin Port Group's container business manager Ma Quansheng also disclosed that the port's throughput was slowing down with a rate of 5.5 per cent in the first five months this year, down 10 per cent.
According to the latest statistics from China's Transport Ministry, ports recorded a collective throughput tonnage of 3.94 billion tonnes in the first half of the year, 7.4 per cent more than a year ago but the growth slowed down substantially from last year's 13 per cent.
International shipping rates were alsog dragged down by the shrinking cargo volumes. Despite major carriers jointly raising the rate from less than US$700 to over $1,500 per TEU earlier this year, the rate has now fallen by more than 10 per cent. A number of carriers' rate increase plans have to be shelved.
On the other hand, SITC Container Lines president Cai Mingyuan said the current situation of overcapacity is severe and will take three to five years to resolve. During the first five months of this year, scrapped ship volume already grew 50 per cent over the full-year volume last year to exceed 100,000 TEU.
But many port operators pointed out that the industry should stay calm towards the depressing situation. Forecasting the latter half of the year, SIPG president Zhuge Yujie sees flatter economic growth ahead, saying the situation will not recover immediately, but nor will it deteriorate further.
Some experts also predict that Beijing's stimulus measures will gradually take effect in the second half, and that the port throughput will hit the bottom and rise again in the fourth quarter.