In early May, Thailand's Regional Container Lines (RCL) said the total number of containers it lifted in March was 228,000. Although this was a sharp rise on February (+39.5%), when activity had been low because of the Lunar New Year holidays, it was still 20.5% down year-on-year when compared to March 2008. The fall was attributed to the global recession and the downturn in international trade. RCL said ship-owned container (SOC) volume dropped 28.5% y-o-y in March, while carrier-owned container (COC) volume was down by 11.7%. Worldwide it was estimated that around 10.6% of the global container fleet had been laid up. Analysts KGI Securities said they expected the company to report --a huge loss' in Q109, and ranked RCL shares as --underperform'.
The Thai freight industry is struggling with the impact of the global economic slowdown, which is particularly strong in the shipping sector. The report is concerned by the impact of global economic conditions, and in this report concludes that total freight carried by ship in Thailand will fall by 6.8% this year and grow by a lower annual average of 1.8% across the 2009-2013 forecast period, measured in tonne-km.
The forecast is based on a variety of factors. Our Thai GDP growth outlook is for an average annual expansion rate of 2.0% over the next five years, down from 4.7% in the preceding five-year period. Our latest figures reflect the slowdown in world economy. Pushing in the other direction is the fact that Thailand remains an intensive user of shipping, and has been investing in the development and expansion of its ports.
Across all modes, total freight will grow by an annual average of 2.1% in 2009-2013. Road freight will grow by 2.5% per annum, held back by lower demand and the limitations of the highways network.
Airfreight will take time to recover from the chaos of late 2008. We project average annual airfreight growth of 2.3% in the forecast period. As mentioned we estimate Thailand's maritime cargo to grow by an annual average of 2.7% during the forecast period. Container traffic is expected to expand somewhat faster, with the total number of 20-foot equivalent units (TEUs) handled growing at an average annual rate of 3.3%. Railway freight traffic will expand at a lower rate of 1.3% per annum.
The freight transport index for Thailand comes out at 58.9 (out of a theoretical maximum of 100.0).
Thailand's best performance is in areas such as freight growth, infrastructure growth and the transport intensity index (a measure of the dynamism of foreign trade). Areas in which it could do better include long-term political and economic risk and the regulatory environment.
It is expected transport and communications GDP to rise to US$33.7bn in nominal terms by 2013, or 8.8% of Thailand's GDP. The transport and communications sector employed 1.03mn people, or 3.0% of the labour force, in 2008. We see this rising to 1.08mn by 2013, remaining at 3.0% of the labour force.