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We've been hearing for months now that any positive container demand blip on the radar is due to retailers in North America and Europe restocking inventory and not because of increased consumer demand.
It's not just carriers but also some analysts, who insist that the relatively robust container volumes we've seen in the first third of 2010 is primarily due to retailers playing catch-up.
"China's export numbers in February 2010 were higher than in January 2008," Mathjis Slangen, senior analyst for cargo at consultancy Seabury, said in mid-April. "Is it a restocking phase? There was massive growth in Chinese manufacturing levels from December through February, but it flattened out by March. This shows the volume growth in these months was predominantly restocking. I don't see a clear sign manufacturing is increasing."
Hanjin Shipping Chief Executive Kim Young-min, who in January also took over the rotating chairmanship of the Transpacific Stabilization Agreement, said restocking was the main driver for the pre-Chinese New Year's surge in container volume. Maersk Line executives have expounded on that point numerous times this year, as have a number of other lines who urged caution even as their early 2010 numbers look promising.
Yet not everyone is convinced.
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