Mon, Aug 15, 2011 - Page 2 News List

Global debt crisis could halt growth of seaports

GATHERING CLOUDS:Shipping was up more than 4% over last year and 17% since 2009, although visitors were down due to Japan’s quake and tsunami

By Shelley Shan  /  Staff Reporter

The European sovereign debt crisis and the US’ credit rating downgrade could dampen strong growth at Taiwan’s international seaports, the Ministry of Transportation and Communications (MOTC) said last week.

Department of Aviation and Navigation Deputy Director--General Chen Chin-shen (陳進生) said the number of cargo containers handled at the nation’s three main international seaports — Keelung, Taichung and Kaohsiung — had topped 7.76 million 20-foot equivalent units (TEU) from January through last month.

This represented growth of 19.44 percent compared with the same period in 2009, when the world was hit hard by the economic downturn.

Chen said the same momentum was also seen in the tonnage of the cargo handled by these three ports, reaching 394.8 million between January and last month.

He said the number has translated to 4.64 percent growth compared with the same period last year and 17.2 percent growth compared with that period in 2009.

Taipei Port, which is placed under the same administration as Keelung Port, has also seen phenomenal growth this year.

Between January and last month, the number of containers handled topped 340,000 TEUs, only 20,000 TEUs less than the whole year figure for 2009.

The percentage of growth also hit 32 percent when compared to the same period last year.

Chen said that Kaohsiung Port remains the nation’s largest seaport, and has handled 5.59 million TEUs from January through last month.

The number grew 5.08 percent compared with the same period last year and 16.95 percent compared with 2009.

The Kaohsiung Harbor Bureau said the port is the world’s 12th largest seaport.

Chen said that whether the ports could maintain such strong growth in the remaining months of this year depended on the economies of Europe and the US.

“The sovereign debt crisis in Europe has not completely dissipated, the credit rating of the US has just been downgraded and there has been concern about another global economic downturn,” Chen said.

Despite the increase in the number of containers handled, the number of international visitors arriving through the nation’s seaports between January and June was down 9.2 percent compared with the same period last year, ministry statistics showed.

It was also first time that the nation’s seaports saw a decline in international visitors since 2008, the ministry said.

The cross-strait sea lines, on the other hand, were the only profitable routes, growing 50 percent compared to same time last year.

The ministry attributed the overall decline to the earthquake and tsunami in Japan on March 11.

Many cruise lines have also canceled their stops in Taiwan, the ministry said.

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