RWI/ISL-Container Throughput Index

RWI/ISL-Container Throughput Index remains upbeat

Press Release from 23 March 2017

During February 2017, the Container Throughput Index of the RWI – Leibniz Institute for Economic Research and the Institute of Shipping Economics and Logistics (ISL) increased by 0.5 points, reaching 124.5 points. It thus seems that world trade has gained a solid momentum. Compared to the same month a year ago, the index stood 6 points higher. A similarly strong increase was last observed in 2012.

This month, a new seasonal adjustment procedure has been implemented to take into account the impact of the Chinese New Year holidays more precisely. This should improve the quality of the RWI/ISL index during the months January and February. Whilst the change of the methodology slightly hampers comparisons with previous issues of the index, it does not affect the overall assessment of the health of the global economy in a negative way.

The flash-estimate for February is based on data reported by 33 ports, accounting for close to ~ 64% of the total index volume.

The RWI/ISL-Container Throughput Index for March 2017 will be released on April 25th.


Prof. Dr. Roland Döhrn

Phone: +49 201 8149-262

Dr. Sönke Maatsch

Institut für Seeverkehrswirtschaft und Logistik
Tel.: (0421) 22096-32

Background Information

The Container Throughput Index is a joint project of RWI with the Institute of Shipping Economics and Logistics (ISL). It aims at providing timely information on short term trends in international trade. The index is based on the consideration that containers have become the most important means of transporting processed products. Therefore, the global container throughput and international trade can be expected to be highly correlated.

As a part of their monthly reporting many ports publish data on container throughput expressed in twenty foot equivalent units (TEU). ISL collects these data systematically in its port database. Since January 2017, the index also contains handling statistics for the port of Guayaquil.  The Ecuadorian port thus became the 82nd port to be included in the computation of the index. Combined the 82 ports covered in the index account for about 6 out of 10 containers handled worldwide.

Calculating the indicator starts about 20 days after the end of each month. At that time, about 25 ports have already published information about the container throughput in the latest months, which allows for a flash estimate of the indicator. Data still missing are forecasted using statistical time series models. Thereafter, the data are added up and the sum is adjusted for seasonal and calendar effects. Furthermore, the trend-cycle component of the seasonally adjusted figures is estimated to eliminate irregular influences. One month later, as a rule data on 65 ports are available. Then an update of the figures already published is made and a new flash estimate for the latest month is released.

Hitherto, the RWI/ISL-Container Throughput Index shows a close correlation with world trade. The index provides valuable input into business cycles analyses, since it is available 3 to 4 months in advance of data on world trade published by international organizations, and one month in advance of the first estimates of world trade volumes.

Related Publications

Articles in other journals


Döhrn, R. (2016), Neuberechnung des RWI-ISL Containerumschlag-Index: Der Einfluss des chinesischen Neujahrsfestes. RWI Konjunkturberichte 67 (4): 49-52. download


Döhrn, R. und S. Maatsch (2012), Der RWI/ISL-Containerumschlag-Index – Ein neuer Frühindikator für den Welthandel. Wirtschaftsdienst 92 (5) download

Döhrn, R. (2012), Containerumschlag-Index als Frühindikator für den Welthandel. Schiff & Hafen 2012 (8): 14–16.