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Congestion in German North Sea ports intensifies, supply bottlenecks affect global trade

Congestion in German North Sea ports intensifies, supply bottlenecks affect global trade

In its latest update on German and global trade, the Kiel Institute for World Economic Research (IFW) in Germany said that supply bottlenecks and congestion in container shipping are becoming more and more serious and are affecting the exchange of goods worldwide.

The latest data from Kiel's trade indicator showed that global trade rose 1.2% (price and seasonally adjusted) in August from the previous month. But for German trade, the signs were negative, with deficits in both imports (-0.2%) and exports (-0.7%). For the EU as a whole, there was little change, with imports (-0.1%) and exports (+0.1%) unchanged from the previous month.

Inflation mechanically increases exports in many countries, as higher prices also increase the nominal trade value typically reported in official statistics. But in fact, major industrialized countriesprice-adjusted exports are still below their pre-pandemic levels. Supply Bottlenecks may be partly responsible for this," said Vincent Stamer, head of trade indicators at Kiel.

Congestion in container shipping is getting worse, IFW warns. They calculated that currently, about 11% of the cargo is being held up. For the first time, congestion in the North Sea was the worst of the anchorages observed by the Kiel Institute. More than 2% of global capacity is at a standstill there, unable to load or unload. In the German Gulf alone, 19 container ships are waiting to unload, two more than 14 days ago.

However, queues are surging near Savannah, a key container port in South Carolina and Georgia. Congestion outside Chinese ports is showing a "cyclical downward trend". On the Red Sea, the most important maritime trade route between Europe and Asia, cargo traffic is currently 16% lower than expected under normal circumstances.

Sea freight rates from Asia to Northern Europe and the west coast of North America have fallen significantly since the start of the year. However, congestion is preventing a return to pre-pandemic levels, and high shipping costs are preventing a further recovery in global trade,Stamer said.

Back in July, a strike action by dockworkers at German North Sea ports largely resulted in a largely suspended cargo handling at major ports such as Hamburg, Bremerhaven and Wilhelmshaven. A few days ago, the German port union Ver.di finally reached an agreement in the 10th round of collective negotiations with German port operators.

In addition to the congestion of German ports, the recent wave of frequent strikes in the United Kingdom is also impacting the supply chain in Europe. Felixstowe, the largest container port in the United Kingdom, is basically at a standstill. More than 560 dockers at Liverpool, Britain's second-largest port, plan to strike from September 19 to October 3 over wages, which is expected to "severely disrupt" shipping and road transport in and around Liverpool.

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