Press Office

RWI/ISL Container Throughput Index: Sharp drop in February

Press release from 24 March 2020

The Container Throughput Index of the RWI and the Institute for Shipping Economics and Logistics (ISL) dropped sharply by 10.9 points in February according to the current flash estimate. It is the strongest drop ever observed. The fall was mostly a result of the development in Chinese ports.

Graph Container-Throughput-Index

The most important results:

• The seasonally adjusted Container Throughput Index of the RWI - Leibniz Institute for Economic Research and the Institute for Shipping Economics and Logistics (ISL) dropped by 10.9 points to 102.5 in February.

• At the same time, the Index for January was revised downwards as expected, namely by 2.2 points down to 113.4.

• The driving force of the drop were the Chinese ports, but also ports at the U.S. West Coast handled significantly less containers.

• In the U.S., the trade conflict with China had a negative impact. The COVID-19 pandemia will only show its impact in March.

• In China, the drop will be mostly due to missing terminal handling capacities as many port workers returned to the ports late after the Chinese New Year holidays due to quarantine measures. The halt of industrial production due to the COVID-19 pandemia and the related drop of imports and exports is likely to show its full effect in March only.

• The flash estimate for February is based on information from 44 ports representing 65 percent of the handling volume represented in the index.

• The RWI/ISL Container Throughput Index for March 2020 will be published on 30 April 2020.

RWI’s Chief Economist Roland Döhrn on the development of the Index: “In February, we saw a drop of the index like never before. We expect a further decrease in March.”


About the RWI/ISL 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 89 ports covered in the index account for about 6 out of 10 containers handled worldwide. 

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.

Data series for individual ports are available in the ISL Monthly Container Port Monitor.
  Further background information on the RWI/ISL Container Port Index can be found at



Prof. Dr. Roland Döhrn, Tel.: +49 201 8149-262,
Sabine Weiler (Pressestelle),   Tel.: +49 201 8149-213,

Index data

Graphic in printable resolution (German)