Despite the fact that worldwide freight volumes fell by 22.1% in February compared to the same period last year, according to IATA, a recently released index for March showed a slight and unexpected improvement – while remaining in negative territory.
Middle East figures were once again by far the most positive globally, with a -4.8% drop in February, up from -6.1% in January and -9.2% in December. If the trend continues, IATA results will hopefully show regional freight growth in either March or April.
IATA cited the recently released Eurozone Purchase Managers Indices – a useful forward-looking indicator - as showing a slight upswing in March.
In other regions, the news was universally glum. The largest market, Asia Pacific, saw demand drop by 24.7% (against -28.1% in January), and IATA stated that Japanese exports had almost halved since their February 2008 levels.
Europe was down by 23.1% (23% in January), while North America dropped by 21.8% (19.3% last month). Africa saw the worst declines, at -30.7% (from -19.8% in January and Latin American demand fell to 22.8%.
On the passenger side, the Middle East saw a surprising positive result, with demand increasing by 0.4%. Global passenger demand dropped to -10.1% against the same month last year.
“Freight traffic, which began its decline in June 2008 before passenger markets were hit, has now had three consecutive months in the -22% to -23% range. We may have found a bottom to the freight decline, but the magnitude of the drop means that it will take time to recover,” said Giovanni Bisignani, IATA’s director general and CEO.