Thursday, January 08, 2009

Idle ports signal two 'bleak' years ahead...,

Calgary Herald | Port traffic is slowing around the world -- everywhere from North America to Asia -- as a recession erodes consumer demand and the credit crisis chokes off loans to export-dependent companies. International trade is set to fall by more than two per cent next year, the most since the World Bank began measuring it in 1971. Idle ports are showing how quickly a collapse in trade can spread, undermining growth in each country it reaches.

September and October are typically Long Beach's busiest months as U.S. retailers take deliveries for holiday sales. This year, September imports fell 15.8 per cent from a year earlier, October's dropped 9.5 per cent, and November's slid 13.6 per cent.

"Everybody expects 2009 to be a bleak year," said Jim McKenna, chief executive officer of the Pacific Maritime Association, a San Francisco-based group representing dock employers at U.S. West Coast ports. "Now, it looks like 2010 is going to be just as bleak."

Slowing trade is both a cause and an effect of the first simultaneous contraction in the world's largest economies since the Second World War. Throughout this decade, trade grew by an average 12 per cent a year, reaching $13.6 trillion in 2007 and propelling growth in nations including Germany, China and Chile. Now the evaporation of financing and collapse in demand threaten an activity that accounts for a quarter of the $54-trillion global economy.

"We are having this dramatic reversal," said Michael Finger, a trade economist in Geneva since the early 1970s. "I'm a long time in this business, but this is unique."