Container volumes from Asia to West Africa and the Mediterranean have fallen, according to analysis carried out by Drewry.
Volumes from Asia to West Africa fell by 7% year-on-year in the first seven months of the year while Asian exports to the Mediterranean fell year-on-year by 7.8% in the second quarter.
The East Mediterranean has held up slightly better than the West, with volumes shrinking by only 6.3% instead of 9.5%.
Drewry said: “The second quarter returns for the West Mediterranean sector are a surprising outcome because only a few months ago it seemed that consumer confidence was re-establishing itself in the more mature economies of Italy, France and Spain despite the long, drawn-out negotiations to prevent Greece from exiting the Eurozone.”
In the second quarter, imports were down 8.2% in Italy, 9% in France and 3% in Spain. Not one single country in the Western Mediterranean, including North Africa, saw any demand growth in the second quarter.
In the Eastern Mediterranean, several countries experienced modest growth, including Egypt, Romania, Israel, Slovenia and Greece, but this was counteracted by a 43% fall in Russian imports and a 28% fall in Ukrainian imports.
According to Drewry, the weaker euro is undoubtedly a contributing factor in falling demand in the Eurozone but the analyst said, there was also: “A degree of prudent, but perhaps excessive, stocktaking in 2014 when some importers sought to replenish inventories before the euro/dollar exchange rate moved radically, as the US authorities surrendered quantitative easing just when the European Central Bank was embracing it.
The analyst continued: “There are even suggestions that some importers indulged in rather overambitious restocking programmes last year in the mistaken expectation that there would be a sharp rebound in economic growth in Europe”
Despite this fall in volumes, there has only been one major initiative to permanently reduce capacity. This was 2M’s decision in June to let its AE9/Condor service skip any calls in the Mediterranean, mainly affecting Barcelona and Tangiers.
Most lines have decided just to void weekly sailings on a temporary basis. Drewry predicts this will continue for the rest of the year but said that another whole string needs to be mothballed to avoid freight rate fluctuations.