RWI/ISL-Container Throughput Index

RWI/ISL Container Throughput Index: The decline continues slower

Press Release 25 June 2020 (Full press release here)

The Container Throughput Index of the RWI - Leibniz Institute for Economic Research and the Institute for Shipping Economics and Logistics (ISL) fell to 107.7 points in May according to the latest flash estimate. In the Chinese ports, throughput increased slightly, while in the other ports it fell significantly.

The most important results:

  • The Container Throughput Index of the RWI - Leibniz Institute of Economic Research and the Institute of Shipping Economics and Logistics (ISL) fell slightly in May in seasonally adjusted terms from (corrected) 107.8 to 107.7. It is thus now 7.3 percent below the previous year's figure.
  • The minus of 0.1 points compared to April is small. At the same time, however, the April value was revised downwards by 1.1 points compared to the flash estimate.
  • Once again, the development in China differed from that in the rest of the world: in Chinese ports, cargo handling increased by just under 2 percent compared to the previous month. In the ports of the other countries, throughput fell by 1.5 percent compared with April and are now 10 percent lower than a year ago.
  • The North Range Index, which gives an indication of the economic development in the northern euro zone and in Germany, fell by 2.0 points to 102.4.
  • The current flash estimate for the Container Throughput Index is based on data from 61 ports, which account for around 84 percent of the handling shown in the index.
  • The RWI/ISL Container Throughput Index for June 2020 will be published on July 31, 2020.

Regarding the development of the container handling index, RWI economic manager Torsten Schmidt says: "As expected, container throughput continued to decline in May. This time the decline was particularly large in European ports. “


Prof. Dr. Torsten Schmidt

Phone: +49 201 8149-287

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.

Container Throughput Index

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. The 91 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

RWI Materialien


Döhrn, R. (2019), Schnellschätzung des RWI/ISLContainerumschlag-Index: Evaluierung und Weiterentwicklung. RWI Materialien 129. download

Articles in other journals


Döhrn, R. (2019), Sieben Jahre RWI/ISL-Containerumschlag-Index – ein Erfahrungsbericht. Wirtschaftsdienst 99 (3): 224-226. download


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): 352-354. download

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