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Container Volume Falls 10-15 Percent

Posted November. 13, 2008 09:27,   


The HS Bach of the French container shipping company CMA CGM entered the berth of the Gamman Hutchison Container Terminal. It unloaded 54 instead of the usual 500 to 600 containers and took onboard 500 containers.

Last month’s container volume at the Gamman wharf was 170,000 containers, down 20,000 from the monthly average.

Jeong Chang-seop, a manager at Shinseondae Terminal, said, “We handle an average of 6,500 20-foot containers daily but volume has decreased 10-15 percent this month. We are feeling the full impact of the global economic crisis.”

Last month’s container volume in Busan was 1,127,420, up 4.6 percent year-on-year. The Busan Port Authority, however, said that due to the slowdown in exports and imports from the economic downturn, volume will not increase this month and will decline next month from the corresponding period last year.

The drop in trade has empty containers pile up high in Busan. The rate of empty containers at the port is 80-90 percent, higher than the usual average of 70 percent.

The number of unclaimed import containers is on the rise because companies have insufficient capital to claim them or have gone bankrupt. According to the Busan Main Customs Wednesday, “The number of cases of unclaimed import containers was 671 over 41,419 tons. The figures were 50 percent higher in the number of cases and more than double in tonnage from last year (419 cases over 19,205 tons).

The dire situation is similar in the major ports of Incheon and Gwangyang. Only 18 freight ships are docked at Incheon Port, which has 47 berths, and most of them remain idle. Last month, the port handled 140,000 containers, down 10,000 from the same month last year.

The Korean shipping and shipbuilding industries are also in a panic from the global economic meltdown.

The Baltic dry index, which reflects the market conditions of bulk carriers transporting raw materials and bulk grains, went from 11,793 on May 20 to below 1,000 last month and further to 818 Tuesday, down 6.9 percent from the peak in May.

The number of orders received by large Korean shipbuilders has dropped dramatically since last month. Of eight Korean companies that rank among the world’s top 10 global shipbuilders in placed orders, only Samsung Heavy Industries, Hyundai Mipo Dockyard, STX Shipbuilding and Sundong Shipbuilding & Marine Engineering have secured orders.

The combined performance of the eight last month was down 50 percent in order placement and 75 percent less in the amount of orders received from the previous month.

silent@donga.com kchwang@donga.com