The congestion of container ships off German ports at the North Sea worsened, affecting the European Union’s (EU’s) trade with Asia, the German Kiel Institute for the World Economy (IfW Kiel) said.

As a result, cargo volumes in the Red Sea, the main trade route between the EU and Asia, were currently 21 percent lower “than would be expected under normal circumstances,” IfW Kiel said. “The gap is largely due to failing cargo from Europe to Asia.”

Two dozen container ships were waiting for clearance at the ports of Hamburg or Bremerhaven for up to three weeks now, according to IfW Kiel.

“Currently, the high dwell time of containers in particular is slowing down handling operations,” a spokesperson for HHLA, a terminal operator at Hamburg’s port, told Xinhua on Friday. The situation would be improved with various measures, such as the leasing of additional space for container storage.

Global trade decreased 1.7 percent in July compared with the previous month, according to IfW Kiel. Exports and imports in the EU declined by 2.1 percent, respectively.

“There is no threat of a crash in trade, but a trend reversal to the upside and a normalization of supply processes are not likely to occur any time soon either,” said Vincent Stamer, head of the Kiel Trade Indicator.

Besides, since June, port workers in northern Germany had paralyzed container shipping in several strike actions, most recently three weeks ago for two days at a time. No agreement has yet been reached in the wage negotiations.

The congestion of ships “is not exclusively due to the strikes by port workers,” IfW economist Stamer said back in July. “However, both strikes and capacity constraints at ports have exacerbated the situation.”

Source: Hellenic Shipping News