STRONG pre-Christmas demand for toys and sporting goods has contributed to a surge in container throughput at the Port of Melbourne.

According to figures released by port management, the figure of 284,958TEU in October represented a 4.5% increase above the same month last year.

Chief executive Brendan Bourke said key factors were the expected seasonal peak of import volumes to meet pre-Christmas inventory requirements underpinned by reports of strong retail sales.

“For instance during October the port has seen good growth in imports of furniture, domestic appliances, and toys and sporting equipment,” Mr Bourke said.

“Exports have also increased with timber and agricultural-based products performing well,” he said.

“We also note that shipping schedules are still recovering from interruptions in previous months with a number of vessels bypassing Port Botany and unloading at Melbourne to avoid the congestion, and rescheduling of some vessels that have omitted their Melbourne call due to schedule recovery efforts.”

Overall October 2020 container trade results compared with October 2019 were as follows:

  • Total container volumes (full and empty) up by 4.5%, with year to date volumes up by 7.2%;
  • Full overseas container imports were up 9.8%;
  • Full overseas exports were up 9.4%;
  • Tasmanian full container volumes were up by 3%;
  • Empty container movements were down 14.2%;
  • Transhipment volumes were around 9,000 TEU higher;
  • Total motor vehicles volumes (by units) decreased 0.9%;

In the dry-bulk division, the month resulted in a 3% fall, with a slight increase in sugar and gypsum offset by a reduction in cement and fertiliser; and

  • Liquid bulk was down 10.9% overall mainly due to a fall in imports of petroleum product.
Port of Melbourne CEO Brendan Bourke. Credit: Ian Ackerman/DCN

Trade outlook

Container trade data for the first two weeks of November 2020 is tracking at a level consistent with the corresponding period in 2019.

Mr Bourke noted the impact of China’s ban on imports of sawn logs from Victoria due to concerns over bark beetle.

“This will have an impact on export volumes for this product category whilst the ban is in place,” he said.