Westbound Transatlantic container traffic grew by 8.4% in 2014, according to Drewry’s preliminary estimate. The trade was given a massive end-of-year boost as volumes barely dipped from the 3Q-peak season level, generating a year-on-year growth in the fourth quarter of 12.6%.
Breaking the trade down, traffic from North Europe to the US rose fastest last year at 9.2% to 1.9 million TEUs. Trade to Canada rose by 6.9% to 600,000 TEUs, while Mexican imports improved by 6.4% to 300,000 TEUs, Drewry reports.
The westbound volume jump in 2014 was second only to the Asia-Mediterranean westbound trade (+12.6%) among the headhaul routes.
However, despite the rapid ascent last year, at 2.85 million TEUs, headhaul Transatlantic volumes remain under a fifth of those carried in the corresponding Transpacific and Asia-Europe trades, Drewry says.
As much as the weaker Euro in the later stages of 2014 helped westbound volumes, it had the opposite effect on eastbound box traffic.
North European imports fell by 7.1% year-on-year in the fourth quarter, which dragged down the annual growth to virtually zero. The rolling 12-month average had been tracking at around 3.5% at the end of the third quarter so the currency shift and weaker European economic outlook took a significant bite out of the trade.
For the year, North Europe-bound freight from the US rose by 1.0% to 1.4 million TEUs. Canadian exports fell by 2.9% to 455,000 TEUs, while Mexico traffic was up by 0.9% to 240,000 TEUs.
Drewry estimates that westbound Transatlantic ships were full to over-spilling in the fourth quarter, so there is room for additional slots to cater for the anticipated demand growth without lowering rates, but the introduction of the new alliances and first timers to the market, such as CMA CGM’s Liberty Bridge Solo, has the potential to disrupt the market.