BIMCO, the Baltic and International Maritime Council, the big shipowners’ association, has reported that its dry bulk and container sectors have enjoyed ‘unseasonably’ high profits during the 18-month Covid crisis, reported the UK’s ShipInsigh

‘North American container imports are up by 33.6 per cent in the first four months of the year, reaching 10.9 million TEU. This is the first time they have exceeded 10 million TEU in the first third of the year,’ said BIMCO analysts.

‘Accounting for almost 70 per cent of total North American imports, imports from the Far East have grown by 45 per cent from last year as consumer demand for goods made in the Far East has reached record highs, thanks to stay-at-home orders and government stimulus cheques burning holes in consumers’ pockets,’ it said.

‘Even adjusting for the pandemic, volumes on the Far East to North America trade are up by an impressive 31.4 per cent from the first four months of 2019, an increase of 1.8 million TEU.

‘This means an extra 120 fully loaded 15,000-TEU ships were needed during the first four months of this year compared to demand in 2019 on this trade alone, a task not only for carriers to meet, but also for ports and hinterland connections. The latter two have proved particularly problematic in the US,’ said the report.

The swift recovery from the Covid crisis in China has seen its dry bulk imports rise to their highest levels ever, boosted by infrastructure heavy stimulus and high grains demand, said the report.

‘This is certainly true for iron ore, of which 471.8 million tonnes have been imported in the first five months of the year, a 26.5 million tonne increase from the start of 2020. It is also 24.4 million tonnes higher than the previous record for the first five months of the year which was set in 2019 when imports totalled 447.4 million tonnes.

High steel production and demand

‘China’s record high demand for iron ore is fuelled by the country’s record high steel output and prices, which reached 97.9 million tonnes in April. In the first four months of the year, Chinese steel mills have pumped out 374.6 million tonnes of steel, a 15.8 per cent increase from the same period in 2020, despite talk from the government about curbing annual production with the aim of reducing pollution.

‘High steel production in China is part of the wider picture with industrial production and manufacturing performing strongly at the start of the year, boosting exports as goods hungry consumers in the developed world, and especially in the US, are buying Chinese produced goods,’ said BIMCO.

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