Outbound cargo trending higher as imports slump

  • Slowing imports: Containers are unloaded from The Bermuda Islander at Hamilton docks

    Slowing imports: Containers are unloaded from The Bermuda Islander at Hamilton docks

Imports have dropped 10 percent per annum over the past two years while outbound cargo has continued to increase steadily since 2006/07 according to Stevedoring Services, suggesting that more people are leaving the Island.

Bermuda Container Line Ltd (BCL) has suffered a similar decline with inbound full containers down 10.5 percent for the first six months of this year compared to the same period in 2010.

But BCL also experienced a 23 percent fall in outbound full containers, while its associate Somers Isles Shipping Ltd’s container volume imports dropped by almost 11 percent and exports rose 168 percent from 35 to 94 containers.

“The last few years have been hard,” said Tjerk Neijmeijer, vice-president, administration at Container Ship Management Ltd, the managing agents for BCL.

Mr Neijmeijer added that the number of refrigerated containers coming in had remained stable, however building supplies were down due to a lack of new builds and renovations.

“We are trying to cut costs where we can,” he said. “We have the dilemma of decreasing freight and increasing fuel prices.

“Our costs are going up but freight revenue is coming down so we have to find ways of making money to compensate for that.”

Peter Aldrich, general manager of Stevedoring Services, said that he was seeing a worrying trend of falling imports and rising exports.

“Imports are continuing to decline while during the summer time, which is normally a peak period for people leaving the Island because their kids are out of school, we are seeing an abnormally large number of export containers and I see that trend continuing based on what I’m hearing in the market place as well,” he said.

“One of my concerns is that the volumes are not where they should be in the summer time.

“I think we are going to be looking at the two weeks prior to Cup Match as a real indicator of where we are.” Mr Aldrich said that imports had declined 10 percent each year since fiscal year 2009/10 and he predicted that it would continue at that rate during the next year.

“My belief is that we are importing less of everything food, dry goods, liquor and miscellaneous, the whole nine yards,” he said.

“I don’t think that we have the size of population that we had several years ago that was consuming that amount of goods.

“Food normally accounts for 70-odd percent of what is imported and that is still pretty much the same, but it is 70 percent of a lower overall volume.”

Similarly he said the volume of construction materials and building supplies was down with only two major projects in the offing and unless another big one started soon his company was in for a “long hard winter”.

Mr Aldrich said that while business was up on the export side, it did not bode well for the future if it continued at that rate with imports dwindling and revenue leaving the country.

“I think there has been a steady decline of people, with more leaving the Island throughout the year,” he said. “It really doesn’t look good.”

Citing the example of a ship which came in last week with a capacity for 300 containers was less than half full with 111 containers compared to an average of 180 to 200 containers in 2008, he said that going the other way exports climbed 10 percent in 2009/10 over 2008/09, which in turn was up 16 percent over 2007/08, which was up 24 percent on 2006/07, which included personal effects, recyclable goods and waste, the former of which was on the increase.

Mr Aldrich said that his company was feeling the economic pinch but would only lay off staff as a last resort.

“Businesses do whatever they have to do to stay in business,” he said.

“The status quo just doesn’t keep business in business in a recession and if you are a business that wants to survive you have to make changes otherwise you will perish.”

Casey Burgess, owner of MiniMax Forwarders, which provides shipping and delivery services, said that imports had picked up since the start of the year, despite being lower than in previous years.

He put the drop in trade down in part to the number of people leaving the Island and the recession, with small retailers bringing in less products.

Laura Blee, managing director of Bermuda Ocean Shipping Services, which deals with customs clearance and delivery of imported goods, said that numbers were down as shipping volumes declined.

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Published Jun 29, 2011 at 9:00 am (Updated Jun 29, 2011 at 9:19 am)

Outbound cargo trending higher as imports slump

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