Following a torrid 12 months for container ports globally as the coronavirus pandemic sent shockwaves through the sector, 2021 saw the industry getting back on its feet.
Recouping volume losses from 2020 — in what was only the second time in history that throughput numbers have retracted, with the other occasion being the fallout of the global financial crisis — was number one priority.
As the world learned to live with the pandemic and economies started to open up once more, at least some normality returned to port operations and business picked up.
The One Hundred Ports that made the cut this time around achieved total volume growth of more than 7% and combined container liftings of 676.1m teu — a figure that more than made up for the 2020 downturn.
Growth was fragmented, though, and port performances split. North America — and, more specifically, the US — helped lead the revival.
Yet 2021 was another year marred by congestion and disruption. Supply chains continued to feel the strain. This took the gloss off an otherwise productive 12-month period for the world’s container ports.
Box liftings accelerated at ports globally in 2021, yet the rebound from the Covid-induced slump came at a price. Ports and terminals felt the strain of sustained and unprecedented demand for containerised goods, while the logistical logjam that ensued put a dampener on an otherwise fruitful 12-month period
A slowdown in the global economy could provide breathing space for container shipping to finally free up clogged supply chains, while bringing much-needed relief to the long-suffering port sector
The development of container port throughput figures from the early-1970s through to today charts the rise and success of containerisation. From the early transatlantic traders to East Asia’s manufacturing boom, and from the industry’s ‘golden age’ to China’s rise to prominence, it is a story 60-plus years in the making
Few parts of the supply chain enjoyed the disruption of 2021 — but for container lines, capacity shortages led to a lucrative year
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