Imports from Japan into Europe and the USA will probably begin to falter once Japanese factories have used up all their inventory and are unable to replace it with new production. Rotterdam and Hamburg ports are expecting volumes to reduce later this month, as the ships which left Tokyo after the disaster arrive in harbour. Transit time for freight from Yokohama and Rotterdam, the biggest port in Europe, is approximately 31 days, so ships leaving Japan the day after the earthquake on 11 March would dock on April 11. Shipping lines say that bookings are down, which won’t show through on the export system for a few weeks. The biggest class of exports from Japan is auto-parts and electronics, so car manufacturers are likely to feel the effect even more strongly than they do now.
Before the earthquake and tsunami, almost 20 per cent of the world’s container shipping fleet was scheduled to call there; the lack of production in Japan will have a noticeable effect on world trade.