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Last month a load of new Honda Civic SI automobiles rolled onto the dock at the Port of Baltimore. Manufactured in Swindon, England, they were the first of 15,000 that Honda plans to move through the port this year. This spring Honda also plans to ship the first of about 55,000 Honda CRV sport utility vehicles it will import this year from England.
Like their brethren in container shipping, operators of roll-on, roll-off vessels are experiencing a slowdown because of the economic recession in the United States and other countries. But as the Honda shipments demonstrate, there are also bright spots in the re-re trade, which is dominated by automobile shipments.
"The market is quite soft and we expect it to stay soft for at least for the first half of this year, and perhaps into the second half," said Jan Evyn Wang, president of Wallenius Wilhelmsen North America. Wallennius Wilhelmsen Lines is one of three carriers transporting the Hondas to Baltimore. The others are MOL and NYK Line.
Despite the economy, Wang said, "the European luxury market is doing well. In many cases, automobile manufacturers are expanding their product range." Companies such as Jaguar, BMW, Mercedes and Porsche are introducing new models. Wang also notes a trend toward larger cars -- even if the number of cars being sold decreases, their cubic mass may increase.
Paul Carlton, president of Mitsui O.S.K. Bulk Shipping USA, said new car sales have held up surprisingly well since the Sept. 11 tragedies, despite the soft economy. European and Asian …