Larger ships a threat to feeder, regional ports, terminal operator says
Regional and feeder ports will have to intelligently plan for how they will compete in a world of super-sized container vessels, said Boon Hoe Ooi, operations director for Portek International.
'We are seeing not just an increasing ship size, but an acceleration in the growth of the size of ships,' Ooi said at TOC Asia 2008 in Shanghai last week. Singapore-based Portek International leases and modifies terminal equipment as well as operates six regional terminals in ports in Indonesia, Gabon, Algeria and Malta.
'By 2011, more than 50 percent of all vessels will be post-Panamax. As a regional or feeder port operator, you're going to face a big jump in the kind of ships you will handle. Large Panamax and even post-Panamax ships will cascade, shifting medium Panamax vessels to feeder services. Instead of 1,000-TEU ships, you will suddenly see 3,000-TEU ships. As a result, you could see a lot of merger and acquisition activity among these regional and feeder operators,' Ooi said.
'Regional ports have to gear up to be able to handle 2,500- to 5,000-TEU vessels,' he said. 'Feeder ports will have to be able to handle 1,200- to 2,500-TEU vessels. Those that can't will lose services and be marginalized.”
Ooi speculated about how ports in Thailand, Indonesia and Malaysia — which all feed Singapore — will respond.
'Will they last?' he asked. 'Will Cai Mep (a deepwater port in south Vietnam) be a winner at the others' expense because of its deep draft? And even if you can handle larger vessels, do you have the sufficient cargo to fill these ships? Do you have equipment or infrastructure restrictions that will get in the way? Regional ports have to extend their hinterland and attract transshipment.' ' Eric Johnson