April DataLiner data points to drop in container imports and exports

May, 30, 2021 Posted by Ruth Hollard

Week 202123

Brazilian maritime trade data in April recently released by DataLiner point to a drop in imports and exports via containers compared to March. Even so, the numbers are higher than in 2020, indicating an economic recovery.

In April, 218,850 TEU were imported, a decrease of 14.56% compared to March 2021, as can be seen in the graph below:

Brazilian Container Imports | Jan 2019 – April 2021 | TEU
In exports, the fall was almost 10% (9.98%), reaching 236,862 TEU.
Brazilian Container Exports | Jan 2019 – April 2021 | TEU

Container imports and exports can serve as a thermometer for an economy, reflecting the country’s dynamism. But does this decrease in container movement mean an interruption in the recovery of economic activity that has occurred since the beginning of 2021?

For Andrew Lorimer, Datamar’s CEO, the answer is “not necessarily.” Some external factors contributed to this decrease. “The blockade of the Suez Canal because of a ship that ran aground on March 23 and resulted in a congestion of ships is one of those factors,” he explains. “Stops were skipped, and routes were bypassed to try to get around the problems. A domino effect was felt in Brazil. If a ship skipped before, it only got worse with this incident”, he says. It is worth noting that about 12% of world trade passes through the Suez Canal.

The lack of containers, especially reefer, also had an impact on the numbers. Since the beginning of the Covid-19 pandemic, there has been a breakdown in international trade. Containers have been held back in China, and there is still a lack of users; this has been damaging Brazilian exports. Fruit and meat shipments, for example, are suffering from these impacts.

To circumvent this situation, several companies recently announced investments in new containers, both reefer and dry. But deliveries are not immediate and will not be fast enough to meet current demand. In addition, the first market that will be supplied with the new containers will be North America, which is resuming trade. Then, this equipment will be made available to Brazil in a trickle-down effect.

There is yet another factor, also a remnant of the pandemic: the increase in freight. “The accident in the Suez Canal only made the freight prices worse, and they were already high,” explains Lorimer. “And this situation should still prevail for some time to come, since we are entering a busy cargo-handling season, with exports from China to the United States growing as a result of Christmas shopping. This problem should remain until after Christmas when demand drops and container deliveries must be made”, he believes.



Despite April’s low numbers, the prospects for 2021 are still high. It is still necessary to replenish purchases and investments that did not take place in 2020 due to the pandemic.

The Datamar chart below shows a history of container ship stopovers in Brazilian ports since January 2020. According to the data, despite all the logistical problems faced by shipowners, 629 stopovers by container ships in Brazil occurred in April, one more than in the same month of 2020, when 628 stopovers were registered.

For May 2021, the total numbers of stopovers have not yet been calculated. Up until May 26th, 511 were registered.


Number of container ship dockings | Monthly evolution Brazil

Graphic source: DataLiner (click here to request a demo)

Data released on May 24 by the Ministry of Economy’s Foreign Trade Secretariat (SECEX) point out that the trade balance registered a new surplus in the year of US$  25.21 billion up to the third week of May, a growth of 69.6% by the daily average in comparison with the period from January to May 2020. The trade flow (sum of exports and imports) was US$ 178.18 billion in the period, up 25.7%.

The result reflects the values ​​of US$ 101.69 billion in exports, with an increase of 29.8%, and US$ 76.48 billion in imports, an increase of 20.5%.

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