IAPH World Ports Tracker Q2 2023: more port calls with less cargo, truck driver shortages appear; overall liner trade connectivity improves

Tracker now includes analysis of UNCTAD-MDST Liner Shipping Connectivity Index (LSCI) on top of the IAPH survey data and S&P Global’s container port performance data.

The tracker reports more cargo calls with lower call sizes, lower expectations on cargo volumes in the next year, solid optimism around cruise and passenger traffic, a notable increase in truck driver shortages, shifts in African countries’ liner shipping connectivity and improved connectivity in South East Asia, Latin America and the Caribbean, and the Mediterranean Sea.

IAPH has released its fifth edition of the World Ports Tracker for quarter 2 of 2023, which contains the most comprehensive situation report on economic activity by ports themselves, as well as by using S&P Global container market intelligence data and now UNCTAD-MDST’s liner shipping connectivity index, both on container trade trends.

This news release offers highlights, with the latest edition of IAPH’s members only Ports & Harbors magazine receiving a report summary. Survey respondents as well as attendees registered for the IAPH 2023 World Ports Conference are receiving a full copy of the 100 page report, which includes comprehensive regional analyses.

IAPH Managing Director Patrick Verhoeven commented : “Professors Theo Notteboom and Thanos Pallis have delivered once more their highly useful insight tool, which has been designed for IAPH port members to read between the data lines on what has happened, what can be expected and which measures they should look at taking to ensure they adapt to market changes. We will now switch the reporting to a half-yearly basis to maximise the number of members involved in reporting survey data, as well as adding annual survey questions for the year-end report on investment plans in infrastructure and sustainability, terminal expansions and land use.”

The second quarter of 2023 brought a sharp increase in the number of cargo vessel calls in all port regions compared to Q2 2022. However, on a year-on-year basis, the average call sizes show strong declines in all port regions.

Co-author Professor Theo Notteboom commented : “Ports around the world are, on average, less optimistic than half a year ago about the expected cargo traffic evolution in the next twelve months. This is particularly the case in North America and North Europe, where about two thirds of the respondents see TEU volumes stagnating or even slightly declining over the next twelve months.”

In the passenger markets, the share of ports reporting an increase in cruise vessel calls remained fairly stable compared to Q4 2022, while this share decreased from 49% to 32% for ferry calls. The share of ports foreseeing growth in cruise passenger movements in the next twelve months has declined slightly from 77% in March 2023 to 68% in September 2023.

On a year-on-year basis, port productivity in Q2 2023 increased in five of the nine world regions. The most substantial growth in average port moves per hour was recorded in North America (+29% compared to Q2 of 2022), followed by North East Asia (+20%), Africa (+10%) and North Europe (+9%).

This fifth edition of the World Ports Tracker, for the first time, incorporates UNCTAD data on the Liner Shipping Connectivity Index (LSCI). The LSCI aims to capture the level of integration into the existing liner shipping network by measuring liner shipping connectivity. It can be calculated at the country and the port level. LSCI can be considered a proxy for accessibility to global trade through the container shipping network. The higher the index, the easier it is to access a high capacity and frequency global maritime containerised freight transport system and effectively participate in international trade, especially for manufactured goods.

The country or port that received the highest score in the reference year of 2006 is assigned a value of 100, which serves as a benchmark to assign value to other ports and countries.

The comparison of LSCI in Q2 2023 with the same period of 2022 illustrates the significant changes that took place during the last year in sub-Saharan Africa, where new countries are emerging among the best-connected ones in the region, and the considerable (i.e., double-digit percentage) LSCI improvements that occurred in South East Asia (with some exemptions), in Latin America and the Caribbean, and the Mediterranean Sea. The LSCI improved to a lesser extent in North East Asia and North America. Some internal shifts are present in North Europe, the region where changes occur at a slower pace. In Oceania and the Pacific, LSCI improvements were marginal.

The situation further improved for intermodal container transport by rail and barge, while the share of ports facing delays in trucking in Q2 2023 remains at single-digit figures. However, the situation in terms of the availability of truck drivers shows a major deterioration when compared to Q4 2022.

Co-author Professor Thanos Pallis commented : “About 45% of all responding ports now report truck driver availability issues compared to 29% in Q4 2022. The figure now even surpasses the 37% figure recorded in Q3 2022 and the 40% figure of Q2 2022. Sub-Saharan Africa is the only region where truck driver availability concerns are minor. In Southeast Asia & Oceania three quarters of responding ports point to some level of trucker shortage.”

In terms of inland storage capacity, there is a general improvement overall in storage availability for containerised cargo. The survey results show 25% of ports reporting an increase or major increase in the utilisation of warehousing and distribution facilities for containerised goods, and a further 5% reported minor increases.

News release contact : Victor Shieh, Communications Director – IAPH

Email : victor.shieh@iaphworldports.org

About IAPH

Founded in 1955, the International Association of Ports and Harbors (IAPH) has developed into a global alliance of 177 port authorities as well as 148 port-related businesses. Comprised of 86 different nationalities across the world’s continents, member ports handle approximately one third of the world’s sea-borne trade and well over 60% of the world container traffic. IAPH leads global port industry initiatives on decarbonization and energy transition, risk and resilience management, and accelerating digitalization in the maritime transport chain. Its World Ports Sustainability Program has grown into the reference database of best practices of ports applying the UN Sustainable Development Goals and integrating them into their businesses – www.iaphworldports.org.