By Ed Attwood
UPDATE 1: Ports operator also says pre-tax profits lower amid challenging year.
Ports giant DP World announced on Monday that container volumes were down 8 percent in 2009 in comparison to the year earlier, as a result of "challenging" conditions facing the global shipping industry.
Excluding the performances of the new terminals that joined the network during the course of last year, volumes declined by 10 percent - an improvement on a drop of 13 percent in the first half.
Across all 50 of DP World’s terminals, twenty-foot equivalent (TEU) volumes dropped by 6 percent during 2008, the company said in a statement posted on NASDAQ Dubai's website.
“2009 has been a very challenging year for container port operators and we are pleased that we have delivered somewhat better results than the industry due to our focus on emerging markets which have remained more resilient to the global downturn,” said Mohammed Sharaf, chief executive of DP World.
“As anticipated, all our regions handled more containers in the second half of 2009 than in the first half and the early signs of stability seen in the third quarter have continued into the final quarter of the year. Customer confidence, whilst improving, remains fragile with limited visibility for the medium term.
“Our 8 percent decline in volumes will lead to a decline in full year profit before tax against the same period last year; however management’s focus on cost cutting and maintaining revenues has mitigated the downside and we expect to report 2009 results in line with expectations,” Sharaf added.
The DP World results are largely reflected across the board in terms of the global ports giants.
Singapore state-owned group PSA International saw TEU throughput at its worldwide ports down 9.9 percent to 56.93 million. Throughput at the firm’s Singapore hub was down by 7.1 percent. PSA did not give any indication of its profits for last year.
While Netherlands-based APM Terminals has not released its figures yet, revenues for the first three quarters of last year were 25 percent below the same period a year earlier - leading to an overall loss of $706 million.
Hong Kong-based Hutchison Port Holdings has similarly not released its full 2009 results. But the world's largest terminals operator saw first-half 2009 earnings before interest and taxes drop by 35 percent. TEU volumes were down by 8 percent year-on-year.
DP World added that the global industry as a whole had reported a decline of almost 12 percent container volumes.
During the course of the year, the Dubai firm also opened two new container terminals, at Doraleh in Djibouti and in Vietnam’s Ho Chi Minh City, as well as winning concessions for the Djezair and Djen Djen terminals in Algeria.