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Ports' toughest time still ahead
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Major ports including Shanghai Port, Tianjin Port, Qingdao Port and Rizhao Port last week saw a drop in goods, foreign trade and container throughputs, and experts predict the ports will see their toughest time in the first half of next year, according to today's China Times.

"The port and shipping businesses are in the same boat, and the bad performance of shipping will definitely impact on the port sector," said a securities manager, who declined to be named.

On October 21, Chen Xuyuan, president of Shanghai International Port Group, lowered Shanghai Port's throughput this year to 28.50 million twenty-foot equivalent units (TEUs) from 30 million TEUs.

Figures show Shanghai Port accumulated a cargo throughput of 295 million tons in the first half of this year, and the rate of increase has kept declining since 2007, especially the routes for Europe and the United States.

"The port industry has not seen the toughest time yet," said Zhang Hongpo, an analyst from CITIC Securities. He predicted the port business would see a negative increase next year if it followed the gloomy manufacturing sector.

Figures also shows the increase rates of container throughput for South China's Shenzhen Port and East China's Shanghai Port were 7.2 percent and 10.4 percent respectively in the first half of this year. North China's Tianjin Port saw a rate of increase of 21.6 percent at the same time.

"China has kept up strong demand for raw materials and energy in the first half of this year, and imports of iron ore, coal and crude oil kept up rapid increases, especially iron ore," explained a senior expert. "So the throughput in the northern ports is faster than that of southern ports."

Yu Numing, board chairman of Tianjin Port (Group) Co Ltd, said domestic companies were grabbing more iron ore in the first half of this year, which resulted in Tianjin Port"s good throughput performance.

Yu plans to increase bulk cargo shipments this year and next year for the demand on coal, and iron ore will increase due to the development of infrastructure. Currently, coal and iron ore account for one third of all throughputs in Tianjin Port.

Yu also worried there would be problems in the first half year of next year, but predicted that compared to the Pearl River Delta with its low value-added industries easily hit by the financial crisis, the Tianjin Port would be less severly impacted.

A report from China International Capital Corporation Ltd predicted the year-on-year increase in container throughput in 2008 will drop to 14 percent, from 22 percent in 2007.

(China Daily November 26, 2008)

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