Le port Shanghai traité juillet 140.000 conteneurs jour juillet, trafic progresser 16 % an. Mais grands axes, trafics maritimes diminuent.

global brake on all modes of transport, cash management

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Giant container ships, trucks, trains and cargo planes: for all modes of transport, the situation is the same. In recent months, the great global euphoria of freight transport has been running out of steam. This movement, which had prevailed since the end of the period of the first confinements, recently passed its peak, even if the volumes processed remain at high levels.

The most emblematic decline is that of the maritime sector, which ensures the transport of 80% of the world’s goods. Port and ship activity accurately reflects the general contraction of the economy. The surge in inflation and the rise in interest rates are modifying the choices of consumers, who are becoming more selective in their purchases. And the Russian-Ukrainian conflict does not help matters. As a result, the World Bank revised its global growth forecast for 2022 downwards in June to +2.9%, very far from the +4.1 % announced at the beginning of the year.

Lower consumption

In mid-July, the boss of CMA CGM, Rodolphe Saadé, testified before the senators of a slowdown in the growth of his trades (maritime, logistics) due to “substantial stocks everywhere in the world and low consumption”. Preferring to speak of “a soft landing” rather than a recession, he added that certain freight rates had “lost almost 40% in a few weeks”… to the great relief of shipper customers.

Its Danish competitor Maersk, world number two behind MSC, recently reported a 2.5% decline in all volumes in May, and recently pointed to the many uncertainties hanging over the rest of the year. . However, it is forecasting a 23% jump in annual profit to $37 billion, more due to record freight rates than cargo volumes.

No tsunami of Chinese goods

“Volumes on many corridors are down. In Europe, over the first five months of 2022, container imports fell by 3%, and exports by 6%”, details the Norwegian firm Xeneta. Obviously, the tsunami of products to be transported from China, after the two months of very severe sanitary confinement (April-May) in the Shanghai region and other metropolises, did not surge as expected, despite the relaunch of Chinese factories this summer.



At a time when Western buyers are already filling their warehouses for the holiday season, the backlash is visible. “As these distributors have very large stocks which are costing them more and more each month, they now draw on these stocks as a priority before placing new orders. This wait-and-see attitude is now palpable on the market, more markedly in Asia-Europe than in the Asia-United States axis. Which does not mean that volumes are collapsing from Asia,” noted Jérôme de Ricqlès, maritime expert at the logistics marketplace Upply, affiliated with Geodis, in July.

Airplane holds less full

This withdrawal movement is repeated in all modes. In air cargo, total global demand in tonnes/km fell by 8.3% in May compared to 2021, then by 6.4% again in June, as companies deployed more capacity to respond to the boom in air freight. previous quarters, according to the International Air Transport Association (IATA). “New export orders have fallen in all markets except China,” says managing director Willie Walsh. In the first half of the year, whether for “all-cargo” aircraft or the bellies of passenger aircraft, European airlines suffered the greatest drop in activity, with demand falling by 7.8%, for a capacity increased by +3.7% over one year, adds the Geneva association.

In line with the planes, the “silk roads”, rail traffic between China and Europe, are also suffering a serious brake. The number of containers transported on these long-distance axes increased by only 2.6% in the first half, according to the Chinese State Railways, far from the boom of +29% in 2021, or even +56% l previous year, when the whole world was looking for sanitary masks and other medical products. Here, the conflict in Ukraine has played a role, with many operators now refusing to cross Russian territory, boycotted by many European companies, preferring less efficient southern routes (Turkmenistan, Turkey).

Settlement of road transport

Closer to home, the business climate is also in decline. In road transport, “the trend has been in continuous decline since the beginning of 2022”, notes the National Federation of Road Transport (FNTR) which questions its members every quarter. “Business leaders note a deterioration in their recent activity in the 2nd quarter, the same is true of their outlook for the 3rd quarter of 2022”, even if the indicators remain “above their long-term average”, points out the federation. professional in its barometer. Referring to INSEE’s business tendency surveys, “the business climate is deteriorating in almost all the sub-sectors of manufacturing industry”, for example the automobile or wholesale trade. The slowdown in e-commerce among individuals is therefore only the tip of the iceberg.

Less strong in volume but in constant progression, combined transport reflects the trend. This intermodal transport consisting of placing on a train, for its longest route, a container brought by a truck, fell by 0.46% in Europe in the second quarter of 2022, according to the professional association UIRR. Although moderate, this decline marks a halt after a year and a half of clear growth (+11% in 2021), notes the specialized site RailFreight. In addition to sluggish demand, the decline is also due to operational reasons (train delays, lack of capacity). Until now, combined transport and its “railway highways” have progressed faster than conventional freight by rail.

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