EUROPEAN TRADE - European ports post impressive box numbers

By: | at 07:00 PM | Channel(s): Ports & Terminals  

European ports have posted impressive gains over the last decade. But will added capacity be met in the future by demand? Will a new phase of Euro-port competition emerge?By George Lauriat, Editor-in-Chief, AJOTEurope’s container ports have grown dramatically over the past six years. In order to keep pace with forecasted demand, nearly every European boxport has undertaken major building programs to add capacity. The competition is keen as European ports vie for ship calls in an era of larger ships, steamship line consolidations and mega alliances. Additionally, mega-terminal operators now often reflect global concerns over regional interests to satisfy shareholder demands. The oft stated keys to developing new terminal capacity is having enough depth alongside to accommodate 10,000 plus teu ships, cranes and handling equipment that create the velocity to turn over the yard efficiently, and an array of intermodal connections, particularly on-dock rail. There is also the factor of location. Location, location, and location are still the three most important elements in any port’s success. Bremerhaven, Hamburg, Antwerp, Le Havre, Felixstowe and Rotterdam, all owe their rise as major European boxports to their locations. But as terminals grow, their cargo drawing basin expands until there is the inevitable overlap and duplication.
Will terminal duplication outrun the demand for capacity? It is a question that European port authorities haven’t had to consider for over a decade. Indeed, ports in Europe were “ambushed” by the huge volume of traffic that cascaded out of China and the Far East. According to an article on Southern European ports by Claudio Ferrari, Francesco Parola and Elena Morchio of the Italian Centre for Integrated Logistics, the Europe-Far East route in 1999-2004 increased 17.5%; 18.6%; 3%; 14.6%; and 15.9%, respectively. The only poor year was 2002, a result of the SAR epidemic. Conversely, the transAtlantic route grew 12.4%; 15.9%; 3.6%; 2.4%; and 7.6% over the same period. The shift in focus from transAtlantic business to the Far East inevitably followed. Currently, total demand is estimated to be around 50 million teus, but it could be a great deal higher with transshipment, river traffic and ro/ro traffic added into the mix.
Port numbers bear out the astonishing increase in traffic. In the period from 2001-2005 (see chart for details), the Port of Rotterdam went from handling 6.1 million teus to 9.3 million teus. This year, Rotterdam might crack the 10 million-teu barrier. The Port of Hamburg has also been a prime beneficiary of the China trade. Port of Hamburg throughput has risen from about 4.7 million teus to nearly 8.1 million teus.
Near double-digit growth in the North Europe port range has occurred without consequence. Growth hasn’t been balanced. In the case of the Port of Hamburg, 1.26 million teus were empties. Similar numbers exist for most of the European mega-ports. Both Hamburg and Rotterdam ports share the common denominator of being the intermodal gateway to the pan European hinterland. European ports like Bremer/Bremerhaven, Antwerp, Le Havre and the UK ports also share European/UK market penetration to various extents. Nearly every port has a major project underway. In Germany, the new JadeWeser project is building a new port to handle larger boxships. The project was formally launched in 2003 with the Federal German State of Lower Saxony holding a 50.1% stake and Bremenports holding a 49.9% stake. The project will be able to handle 4.1 million teus by 2020. Bremerhaven is also working on CT-IV and Hamburg is working on Altenwerder and Burchardkai. Le Havre has been building its Port 2000 I&II. In Antwerp Deurganckdok phases (East & West) I, II & III are in the works, along with Vlissingen, Westerschelde. Rotterdam is building Maasvlakte II, to mention only a few. In the UK, DP World is building a new box port at the London Gateway site. Harwich also is looking to build a new facility at the Bathside site. Overall, Ocean Shipping Consultants e

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American Journal of Transportation