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Container handling volumes globally reached a record 608m teu in 2011, with China retaining its lead. Overall, aggregate global volumes have continued to register an average annual growth rate of 4.5% since 2007, even though volumes were hit by the world financial crisis, resulting in the industry’s first negative year in 2009.

China pulls ahead in container volume stakes

China’s volumes rose to 164m teu last year. If Hong Kong’s volumes are included, this total would rise to 188m teu, almost equal to the combined 193m teu container volumes of the next ten largest countries. Overall, the combined China and Hong Kong total grew by an average of 8% per year during the period 2008-2011 – the highest growth rate amongst the main container regions in the world.

While most regions have recovered strongly from the 2009 slump, both North America and Europe have yet to fully regain their pre-crisis volumes. North American volumes were particularly hard hit, with aggregate volumes falling by 1.2% per annum during the 2007-2011 period. European volumes grew by only 0.7% in the same period driven mainly by Russia, which grew by 7.3%.

Most other major European countries recorded low or negative growth, with Italy and the UK suffering the largest declines; Italian port volumes fell from 10.6m teu in 2007 to 9.5m teu, while UK ports volumes declined from 9m teu to 8.2m teu in the same period.

Panamanian ports saw the biggest jump during the last four years, with volumes growing from 4.1m teu (2007) to 6.6m teu (2011), an annualised growth rate of 12.9%. Vietnam also saw significant gains, with an average annual growth rate of 12.1% to reach 7.9m teu in 2011.

Among other world regions, African ports recorded the highest growth rates, with total container volumes on the continent rising to 26.2m teu in 2011 over the four year period. Growth was focused on the three largest countries, with Egypt (7.3m teu), South Africa (4.4m teu) and Morocco (3m teu) accounting for over half the continent’s volumes.

Morocco’s volumes were boosted mainly by the growth of transhipment cargo at Tanger-Med, a port which was launched in 2007. Last year the port handled 2.1 teu, placing it behind Port Said and Durban in Africa.

These volume figures are based on throughput data compiled by Alphaliner from over 750 ports worldwide.

(Source: Aphaliner)