Container trade to the Caribbean declines: ECLAC

The Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean reports that new ports ranking confirms the decline in the region’s foreign trade last year and marks a loss in activity not seen since the crisis of 2009.

The throughput of containerized cargo in the ports of Latin America and the Caribbean fell 0.9 percent in 2016, according to data released on Tuesday by ECLAC.

ECLAC said this regional average continues the negative trend of deceleration that has been observed in the last few years and represents the biggest loss since the 2009 crisis.

The United Nations body unveiled a new edition of its ranking of container port throughput, published in its “Maritime and Logistics Profile,” which confirms two trends seen in the region in recent years: An overall steepening of the deceleration of foreign trade in container terminals and a high degree of heterogeneity in this activity’s growth rates within the region.

ECLAC said the deceleration in the regional average of port throughput began several years ago: 6.0 percent in 2012, 1.3 percent in 2013, 2.4 percent in 2014 and 2.5 percent in 2015.

ECLAC said the deterioration in 2016 was mainly determined by a decline in activity in five countries: Brazil (-4.4 percent), Panama (-9.1 percent), Colombia (-3.6 percent), Argentina (-6.1 percent) and the Bahamas (-14.3 percent).

These drops were mitigated by the increases seen in some countries of the region, which contributed to raising the total volume: Mexico (3.2 percent rise), Chile (4.8 percent), Peru (8.4 percent), Ecuador (4.5 percent), the Dominican Republic (8.3 percent), Guatemala (8.8 percent), Costa Rica (7.3 percent) and Uruguay (9.5 percent).

ECLAC said the total volume of activity in 2016 reached about 47.5 million TEU (Twenty-foot Equivalent Unit).

TEU is the standard unit of measurement, equivalent to a container of a length of 20 feet, or 6.25 meters, meaning it is a standard-sized metallic box that can be easily transferred between different modes of transportation, such as ships, trains and trucks, ECLAC said.

It said the first 40 ports in the ranking represent nearly 90 percent of operations with this type of cargo in the region. The following 100 ports move the remaining 10 percent (4.4 million TEU).

“The data compiled by the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC) points to great heterogeneity in the performance of port throughput, both at a sub-regional level and by country,” the statement said.

ECLAC said the sharpest declines in volume of port activity were recorded by the terminals of Buenos Aires in Argentina (-5.7 percent), Kingston in Jamaica (-5.2 percent), Freeport in the Bahamas (-14.3 percent), Santos in Brazil (-6.9 percent), Cartagena in Colombia (-4.0 percent), and Colón (-8.9 percent) and Balboa (-9.2 percent) in Panama.

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