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American Shipper

Container terminals get some breathing room

Container terminals get some breathing room

Drewry Shipping Consultants said its just-published annual review of global container ports finds the industry, which has worried for years about keeping up with demand, may have some breathing room.

   “Over the past 18 months we have seen a large number of new container terminal development projects confirmed and this will have a positive impact on the utilization of terminal capacity over the next five to six years. At the same time, demand growth has eased in certain key locations, such as the USA and Europe,” said Neil Davidson, Drewry’s director for ports.

   While the forecast shortage of container terminal capacity has eased over the past 12 months, the London-based consultant said its data “underlines the fact that further investment is still required to avoid potential bottlenecks, especially in certain key geographical regions.”

   In three areas — the Middle East, South Asia and East Europe — Drewry forecasts that by 2013 container throughput will exceed available capacity, if further projects are not brought on stream. The biggest gap between supply and demand is likely to be in Eastern Europe.

   “There is no room for complacency,” Davidson said. “While there has been an improvement in the forecast outcome, more needs to be done to address the tight supply/demand balance that is likely to occur in certain parts of the world over the next few years. Even with the credit crunch, there is still a capacity crunch. That is evident now in places like the Middle East, South America, the Baltic, the Black Sea, India and Asia. And it will return to places like North America and Europe unless port operators keep their foot on the gas.”

   Drewry said most of the leading global container terminal operators have put robust investment programs in place. Of the top 20 global operators, 14 increased available terminal capacity by more than 10 percent from 2006 to 2007.

   “It is significant that some of the fastest growing operators in terms of terminal capacity are carrier-based,” Davidson said. “This suggests an ongoing strategic drive by shipping lines to control and expand terminal capacity to meet the needs of their core shipping businesses.”

   Drewry expects APM Terminals — sister company to Maersk Line — to consolidate its position as the leading provider of terminal capacity through 2013, while China's COSCO Group is expected to be involved in bringing on stream more capacity than any other global terminal operator in this timeframe.

   It added that carrier-based operators should continue expanding capacity faster than other global container terminal operator group over the next few years.

   Drewry also measured the total throughput handled at facilities in which global operators have a shareholding of more than 10 percent. By this calculation Hutchison Port Holdings is the world’s leading global container terminal operator, with a total throughput of 66.3 million TEUs, followed by APM Terminals with 60.3 million TEUs and PSA at 54.7 million TEUs. Dubai Ports World and COSCO occupy fourth and fifth positions, respectively.

   Drewry said the leading 20 global container terminal operators handled a total throughput of around 349 million TEUs in 2007, about 13 percent more than in 2006, while world container throughput increased about 12 percent to 494 million TEUs. By this measure, the top 20 global terminal operators' market share topped 70 percent in 2007.

   The consultant also measured global terminal operator throughput using an “equity TEU measure,” where throughput is adjusted to reflect the share of individual terminal operating companies held by the global operators. By that measure PSA of Singapore is the leader, in part because of its 20 percent shareholding in Hutchison Ports. HPH is in second place and APM Terminals in third. DP World and COSCO are again ranked fourth and fifth by this means of calculation.

   The reported involvement of Geneva-based shipping line Mediterranean Shipping Co. in terminal ownership makes it the fastest-growing global terminal operator when throughput is measured by equity TEU, propelling it into eighth place in 2007, behind Evergreen and Eurogate.

   Annual Review of Global Container Operators (2008) is published by Drewry Shipping Consultants Ltd., and more information is available at its Web site www.drewry.co.uk.

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