Dubai: DP World, the Dubai-based ports operator, on Tuesday reported a decline in the container volumes it handled in the third quarter of 2018 amid what it described as a “challenging macroeconomic environment.”

The company handled 18 million TEU (twenty-foot equivalent units) in the third quarter of this year, a 0.5 per cent decline from the 18.28 million handled in the same period last year.

Container volumes in the UAE specifically also dropped, falling 6.7 per cent year-on-year during the quarter to reach 3.6 million TEU.

DP World said in a statement the outlook for volumes in the UAE remains challenging.

“In the UAE, the volume weakness in the third quarter of 2018 is mainly due to loss of low-margin throughout, where our focus remains on profitable cargo, and while the near-term volume outlook in Jebel Ali remains challenging, we have taken measures to maintain profitability,” said Sultan Bin Sulayem, group chairman and chief executive officer of DP World.

He added that, globally, there is “general caution in the market given the current uncertainty in global trade.”

Bin Sulayem said, however, that “despite the softer volumes,” DP World is “on track to meet market expectations” for the full-year 2018. The company’s share price ended the day 4.78 per cent higher following the statement.

The figures for the third quarter bring total volumes in the first nine months of 2018 to 53.6 million TEU, a 2.6 per cent increase year-on-year. In the UAE alone, volumes in the first nine months were lower year-on-year, at 11.3 million TEU, a 2.1 per cent decline.

Volumes in Europe, the Middle East, and Africa, which DP World groups as one region and which also include UAE figures, fell 4.4 per cent in the third quarter of 2018. Volumes in the Asia Pacific and the India subcontinent rose, however, by 0.6 per cent as volumes in the Americas and Australia went up 1 per cent year-on-year.