Hope dims for higher Asia-West Africa container trade

Container stacking area at the port.

Carriers in the Asia to West Africa container trade may experience another bout of poor demand trend this operating year, as the container traffic on the route continues to decline. This comes as the Lagos ports expect to berth about 30 vessels between now and April 4th.

But cargo traffic had dropped by about one-fifth since 2014, as southbound container flows into West Africa dropped by 10 per cent in 2015 to 1.3 million Twenty-foot Equivalent Units (TEU), which further decreased by 12 per cent in 2016 to 1.2 million TEU, and early 2017 numbers “are even worse.”

With no immediate expectation of a demand recovery, carriers are trying to restrict the amount of capacity available through void sailings, although the cascade of bigger ships from other trades continues to undermine the effectiveness of that practice.

Shipping consultancy firm, Drewry, in its latest statistics noted that the January 2017 figures “do not suggest that trend is going to reverse any time soon.” The report showed that southbound volumes for the month were down by 18 per cent year-on-year, which lowered the rolling 12-month average to 95,600 TEU per month, down by 12.5 per cent year-on-year.

Despite the weak demand, spot rates along this route made a surprising upturn at the end of last year, although some of the momentum dissipated in February. Average Asia to West Africa rates fell by around 12 per cent month-on-month in February to reside at around $1,600 per 40ft container.“With ships barely half-full on the southbound voyage it does not seem likely that carriers will be able to arrest the decline in the next few months,” Drewry said.

At Lagos ports, the Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA) shipping position showed that the 30 vessels will be conveying petroleum products, steel product, fish, wheat, salt, soya beans, and a host of others.

Motor vehicle that are currently waiting to berth at the ports includes; Team Tango, Spar Rigel, Monemyasia, Grand Breaker, and MSK Northampton conveying fertiliser and corn.Tanker vessels waiting to berth are Jinan, Dukham, Star Ploeg and Cenito conveying Premium Motor Spirit (PMS) and Palmolein.

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Nigerian Ports Authority
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