ECONOMY

Container business booming

Cargo-shipping companies are seeing gold in the Middle East, as consumer demand in the region’s countries is boosted by high petrol prices, not to mention the large infrastructure projects under way. All this leads to a significant rise in containers shipped to the region, according to shipping sources. «Optimism seems to stem from the ever-increasing trade of containers in all the region’s ports. Dubai seems to lead, as its trade traffic is expected to rise by 22 percent this year. Trade is also increasing at double-digit rates at the ports of Khorfakkan, Salalah and Jedda,» Kathimerini was told. The same sources report a significant rebound in the Asia-Middle East cargo route, reaching 20 percent since the start of the year compared with 2004. This trend is also explained by the great rise in Chinese exports, while Middle East exports are steadily rising, as the bulk of the trade is petrochemical products in containers. Container ships’ chartering rates to and from the Middle East keep rising, with the biggest increase recorded between the Middle and Far East. Still, shipping experts in the region worry about the impact in the market from the expected delivery of newly built container ships on the key routes and in the overall market in the Middle East. Companies are keeping their rates high, however, as there is no sign of the main market parameters weakening. On the other hand, demand for new and used container ships has subsided considerably in the last few weeks. According to maritime shipping company Braemar only 19 container ships changed hands in the year’s third quarter, totaling 26,000 teu, against 42 ships of 72,000 teu in Q2. In the year’s first nine months a total of 125 ships were sold, some 40 percent below the figure in the same period last year. New orders have also dropped, with 49 ships ordered in Q3 against 150 in Q2. Still, current orders reach 1,364 ships of 4.87 million teu, scheduled to be delivered from now until 2008.