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Busan Port Sees Drops in Transshipment Cargoes Except for Those from N. America and Asia

Busan Port

A panoramic view of Busan New Port.

This year, Busan Port is expected to chalk up 20 million containers for the first time in its history but its transshipment cargo trend is unusual. 

According to logistics network data by the Busan Port Authority on November 7, until September of this year, Busan Port handled a total of 15,537,000 containers (based on 20-foot containers), 4.77% more than the same period of last year. Korea’s import and export containers increased 7.06% to 7,634,000, but the number of transshipment containers at Busan Port from third countries swelled 2.56% only to 760,300.

This year’s growth of transshipment containers is very low compared to 7.2% to 17.1% increases except for temporary declines in transshipment cargoes sparked off by the global financial crisis (2008 – 2009) and the Hanjin Shipping Incident (2016) since 2000. Transshipment cargoes at Busan Port grew only 3% in October, according to provisional data by the Busan Port Authority.

Transshipment cargo trends by region changed. Until September of this year, increased transshipment cargoes came from Far Eastern Asia (1.92%), North America (6.8%), Japan (6.8%) and Southeast Asia (13.21%) only.

Drops in transshipment cargoes recorded by containers from all other regions such as Europe (-10.07%), South America (-4.39%), Central America (-1.48%), Middle East (-1.75%), Oceania (-12.56%), Southwest Asia (-8.76%) and Africa (-39.80%). Transshipment cargoes from these regions accounted for all transshipment cargoes at Busan Port. In 2014 and 2015, transshipment cargo from Europe, South America, Central America, the Middle East and Africa soared up to 40% year on year, but turned to a decline after last year’s Hanjin Shipping Incident.

Last year, the suspension of operations of Hanjin Shipping vessels had pulled down the number of transshipment cargoes from all regions except for Southeast Asia (12.75%) and South America (2.09%) since September.

In addition, large global shipping companies are planning to begin to put ultra-large ships capable of carrying more than 20,000 containers at a time in the Asia-Americas and Asia-Europe routes next year. China’s import and export cargoes will be more likely to go straight to destinations such as the Americas and Europe without passing through Busan Port. In addition, some ports in China are actively attracting transshipment cargoes while expanding facilities a great deal. Analysis says that these situations cut across the fact that the amount of Chinese transshipment cargoes at Busan Port which had grown over 7% annually on average since 2010 rose less than 2% this year.

The incorporation of three major Japanese container companies into one may become disadvantageous to Busan Port.

Industry experts say that the volume of transshipment cargoes excluding those from North America and Asia sank at the same time due to the fall of Hanjin Shipping, the reorganization of global shipping alliances and mergers and acquisitions among foreign shipping companies. Prior to court receivership, Hanjin Shipping played a major role in bringing transshipment cargoes to Busan Port by putting vessels to work in all areas except for Africa and leading the CKYHE Shipping Alliance. In 2015, 1.05 million transshipment cargoes were handled at Busan Port.

After the bankruptcy of Hanjin Shipping, Hyundai Merchant Marine (HMM) became the largest Korean shipping company but has failed to fill the void left by Hanjin Shipping due to a decrease in its fleet caused by a restructuring. HMM failed to join a global maritime alliance so cannot play a role in bringing transshipment cargoes of foreign shipping companies to Pusan Port since HMM only forged strategic partnership with 2M, an alliance of Maesk and MSC. HMM is devoid of a large ship carrying more than 18,000 containers. This fact disables HMM from operating its own vessel in Korea-Europe routes. Therefore, many of transshipment cargoes that Hanjin Shipping transported to many areas have been transferred to foreign shipping companies.

Routes to Busan Port were integrated during the restructuring of shipping alliances and the mergers and acquisitions among foreign shipping companies, resulting in a drop in transshipment cargoes from Europe and South America. “The status of Korean shipping companies that played an important role in increasing Busan Port’s freight volume fell significantly, having a big impact on the volume of transshipment cargoes to Busan,” said officials at the operator of Busan Port Terminal. “If this trend holds, we can hardly expect that transshipment cargoes will take the lead in expanding transshipment cargoes to Busan Port.”

The Original Posted by Michael Herh/Business Korea

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