A crossroad of trade for millennia, regional shipping services remain vital to some 700 million people in 24 countries along the shores of the Mediterranean and Black Sea.
A new report, Intra-Mediterranean Container Trades, from the Netherlands-based firm Dynamar, forecasts that total intra-Mediterranean full-container trade (regional trade and feeder boxes) will grow from 14.9 million TEUs in 2013 to 15.6 million TEUs in 2015 and 17.1 million TEUs in 2017.
As large as the region’s trade is, Dirk Visser, senior consultant at Dynamar, said if there was peace throughout the Middle East and North Africa, both trade growth and volumes might double.
These numbers, by the way, do not count direct traffic carried by deep-sea services originating in or destined for other parts of the world. If they did, the volume of trade moving through Mediterranean ports would probably be north of 30 million TEUs, Visser said.
Dynamar noted today there are about 170 intra-Mediterranean services operated by 40 different shipping companies.
The Med has a multitude of ports, and Dynamar said collectively 90 ships depart from nearly 100 of them each day, carrying an average of 275,000 TEUs of regional trade and feeder boxes weekly. Frequency of service “varies greatly,” and at the hyper-connected Piraeus and Alexandria ports there are about 54 sailings per week; at Famagusta on Cyprus, one every other week.
Of the 40 carriers operating in the Med, Dynamar said 28 originate within the region.
Mediterranean Shipping Co. has a 25 percent share of intra-Med capacity, while Marseilles-based CMA CGM has a 15 percent share, as does Arkas Line from Izmir, Turkey.
The Danish carriers Unifeeder and Maersk (including its Seago affiliate) are the fourth and fifth largest carriers with a 13 percent share. Zim has about 2 percent, and a raft of others about a percent or less.
Dynamar counts 275 container, roll-on/roll-off, and multipurpose ships with container capacities of 400 to 3,000 TEUs that ply the intra-Med and coastal trades.
French historian Fernand Braudel wrote “the Mediterranean is not even a single sea, it is a complex of seas,” a reality reflected in the report which details the distribution of trade in six sub-regions.
Let’s take a clockwise tour around the map:
- West Europe-Mediterranean services that call Spain, France, Italy and Malta provide annual capacity of about 2.9 million TEUs and connect with all five other sub-trade areas. It contains both large inter-regional ports, such as Valencia, Barcelona, Marseilles and Genoa, and the major transhipment hubs of Algeciras, and Tangier-Med (which is about 40 miles east of Tangier, on the strait of Gibraltar), Malta and Gioia Tauro.
- Adriatic trade is much smaller, comprising services from ports on Italy’s east coast, Slovenia, Croatia, Montenegro and Albania. Annual capacity is 911,000 TEUs. Dynamar said it is “considered to offer a large potential for growth of intra-Mediterranean shipping volumes.”
- The Aegean, comprising the waters between Greece and northern Turkey, is the second largest intra-Mediterranean trade area, providing a capacity of 2.6 million TEUs. Dynamar noted, in addition to Piraeus in Greece, most of the other major ports are located around the Sea of Marmara—where there are 17 different terminals handling boxes—and in the Izmir area, including Nemruth Bay. “The Marmara main port complex of Ambarli will soon be confronted with competition from a new, very large, MSC-controlled transhipment port in the form of (ultimately) a 2.5 million-TEU earthquake-resistant Asyaport,” Dynamar said. It rates the Aegean as the most connected region with 275 trade connections.
- The Black Sea, in contrast, has just 71 weekly intra-Med service calls. The maximum length of a vessel passing through the Bosporous is 300 meters and this is “becoming a tight margin for the deep-sea mainline vessel services steaming into the Black Sea directly from their overseas origins,” Dynamar said. New 9,400-TEU ships from CMA CGM are being built to maximize capacity while meeting the constraints of the strait. However, Dynamar noted “length is no problem at all for the average intra-Mediterranean regional cargo and feeder ships, which provide 862,000 TEUs of capacity to all points in the Med except for the Magreb countries.”
- Despite the wars and tensions in the Levant region—Southern Turkey, Cyprus, Syria, Lebanon, Israel, and Egypt—the region, served with 2.8 million TEUs in capacity, is the third largest intra-Mediterranean sub-trade area, with services to all other regions of the Med. Egypt handles 6.3 million TEUs of cargo, including 4.1 million TEUs at the major transhipment hub of Port Said and 1.5 million TEUs in Alexandria. Alexandria is just behind Piraeus in terms of connectivity—it has services to 53 other ports. Israel and Lebanon both handle large numbers of containers: 2.5 million TEUs and 1.1 million TEUs, respectively.
- The Maghreb countries of Libya, Tunisia, Algeria and Morocco account for about 15 percent of intra-Med trade, Dynamar explained, which included Tangier-Med, but excluded Morocco’s west coast ports on the Atlantic, Casablanca and Agadir. The Aegean and Levant are large trading partners within the Med for the Margreb countries, and the two largest ports are Tangier and Algiers.
At the dominant transhipment hubs, transhipment volumes make up more than half their total throughput. There are 10 of these super-hubs in the Med. For example, at both Gioia Tauro and Tangier-Med Port, 95 percent of the traffic is transhipment cargo.
Transhipment cargo represents a smaller percentage of the overall trade at Algeciras and Port Said, but they are the largest transhipment ports in the Mediterranean, handling about 4 million TEUs and 3.8 million TEUs, respectively, in 2013.
Dynamar said eight global terminal operators are involved in 30 different Mediterranean container terminals: the Maersk affiliate, APM Terminals, has eight; DP World has six; and the MSC affiliate, Terminal Investment Ltd., five.
This article was published in the December 2014 issue of American Shipper.