Press Office

RWI/ISL-Container Throughput Index painting a more benign picture of world trade this month

Press release from 20 December 2016

During November 2016, The Container Throughput Index of the RWI – Leibniz Institute for Economic Research and the Institute of Shipping Economics and Logistics (ISL) recorded a healthy increase to 122.1 points.

The figures for September and October have been revised upwards by 0.5 points (to 120.0 in both cases). The revision is a result of two elements: First, the actual figures reported by some ports outpaced the preliminary estimates. Second, the revision reflects changes to the seasonal adjustment factors which have become necessary.

In the end, the index now paints a more benign picture of the health of the global container trade than it did just one month ago. Yet, one needs to remain cautious and keep in mind that “one swallow does not make a summer peak”. It will remain to be seen if the upward momentum can be sustained in the months to come.

The flash-estimate for November is based on data reported by 38 ports, accounting for close to ~ 75% of the total index volume. The RWI/ISL-Container Throughput Index for December 2016 will be released on January 24th.

Container Throughput Index

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. Currently, the data base covers 81 ports providing time series of monthly figures which are long enough to be integrated into the indicator. In these ports about 60% of world container throughput is handled.

Calculating the indicator starts about 20 days after the end of each month. At that time about 25 ports have already publish information about the container throughput in the latest months, which allow 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.



Prof. Dr. Roland Döhrn, Tel.: (0201) 8149-262,
Jörg Schäfer (Press Office), Tel.: (0201) 8149-244,

Index Data