MEDITERRANEAN / MIDDLE EAST & AFRICA PORTS AND TRADE - Med hub ports gain momentum;

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Med hub ports gain momentum; challenges come from MoroccoBy Karen E. Thuermer, AJOTContainerized shipping is on the rise in the Mediterranean as more hub ports there are integrated into the Asian pendulum of round-the-world steamship services and direct services to Asia and North America.
Given the vast amount of trade that now circumvents the Med, ports there are gaining in importance and becoming increasingly competitive.
While the ability to handle capacity in the Med has been historically limited, developments are underway to expand existing seaports and develop new terminals. The reason: steamship lines continue to introduce larger vessels into their global services, thereby placing more pressure on the need for deep water transshipment hubs that can accommodate their size and volume of trade.
The ports at Gioia Tauro, Italy; Algeciras, Spain, and Marsaxlokk, Malta have been the key players servicing this trade, and are now being challenged by the Port of Tanger-Mediterranean (Tanger-Med).
AlgecirasFor the second year running, Spain’s Port of Algeciras ranked as the No. 1 seaport in the Mediterranean for containerized freight. In 2006, 3.24 million teus were handled, compared to 2.9 million teus at Italy’s Gioia Tauro. This is a seven percent increase over 2005 figures for the port.
This year, however, tonnage is projected to increase a whopping 21% given improvements at Juan Carlos 1 terminal, which is operated by APM Terminals and has a close relationship with the Maersk shipping group. The improvements at the terminal will make it possible for Maersk to increase its throughput from 3.2 million teus in 2006 to 4.1 million teus.
The improvements involve roughly $58 million on new equipment, about $34 million of which has been spent on five 22-wide super post-Panamax cranes and $24 million on 20 rubber-tired gantry (RTGs).
The fact that some of the wharves at the Port of Algeciras are devoted exclusively to container traffic makes the seaport unique in the Mediterranean. The port can accommodate the world’s largest container carrier ships. Its terminals are run by two operators—APM being by far the predominate operator. Ten of the leading world carriers call at the port, accounting for 56% of the routes, compared with 33% for Gioia-Tauro and 27% for Marsaxlokk (Malta). Many of these lines traverse long distances—some connecting to all five continents.
Gioia TauroGioia Tauro handled 2.9 million teus in 2006, down from 3.08 million teus in 2003, due to increased competition. Still, it remains the leading transshipment center in the Mediterranean thanks to its excellent feeder connections to 60 ports in the region and to the Black Sea.
Gioia Tauro’s Medcenter Container Terminal (MCT) with its 3,300 meter-long quay, has undergone improvements to increase capacity over the last year. In July 2006, 4 ZPMC gantry cranes were installed at MCT in the terminal’s new 385 meter long deep-water berth. The berth has a 17-meter draft. The cranes, with their ability to reach 23 containers across, give the terminal the ability to accommodate today’s largest container vessels and also to handle the next generation of even larger container carriers.
In addition, the terminal will soon offer 30 Kalmar 7th generation CSC straddle carriers to supplement the sizeable fleet already in operation at its Gioia Tauro facility. Since the port operates primarily as a transshipment port, straddle carriers are ideal given their flexibility to operate in a random environment where box movements tend to be between the feeder and mothership berths.
Due for delivery between late 2007 and early 2008, the order includes 20 four-high CSC440 units and ten three-high CSC340 units. The new CSC440 unit will provide a 50% stacking capacity increase over MCT’s existing three-high straddle carriers.
“MCT is a high-performance straddle carrier terminal, recording approximately 30,000 teus per straddle carrier per year - a 50% increase over the 20,000 global

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American Journal of Transportation