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Downs and ups

06 Dec 2010
The new 1.5m teu Zeebrugge International Port is ready for business

The new 1.5m teu Zeebrugge International Port is ready for business

The world’s port leaders are at last building on the dire figures of 2009. Felicity Landon reports

Certainly, our global port operators can look back with satisfaction on 2010, a year of very respectable percentages in terms of container volume increases.

But after 2009, that’s hardly surprising – and the big question is, where will 2011 take us?

“Because 2009 was such a dismal year, we expect global container volumes handled in ports to grow handsomely by more than 10% in 2010 over 2009,” said one operator. “The growth rate, which soared in the first half of 2010, partly because of the low base, will weaken in the second half, particularly so in the fourth quarter 2010.”

There are mixed sentiments about the health of container shipping from 2010 to 2011, he adds: while volume is expected to “visibly wither” in the fourth quarter 2010, it will not fall off the cliff in the way it did in 2008. “It nevertheless ushers in a cautious mood about growth in 2011, which will probably be confined to single-digit territory.”

APM Terminals reported a 6% increase in container volumes through its global port and terminal network in the first half of this year, to 15.8m teu. But this figure was distorted by changes within APMT’s network, emphasises communications director Tom Boyd: “The 2010 volume totals reflect the cessation of operations at the Port of Oakland, Savannah and Kaohsiung, as we have continued aggressive portfolio management to optimise performance and returns.”

Overall, he says global container throughput is on track to return to 2008 levels, led by strong growth in emerging markets and particularly in the intra-Asian market.

“Container traffic in regions such as Latin America, Southeast Asia, the Middle East, Africa and the Indian subcontinent have been estimated from 6% annual growth to over 10% through 2015. APM Terminals, with a very strong and growing presence in these areas, is well positioned to serve this projected ongoing market expansion.”

APMT is continuing to invest in new and expanded facilities, but much more selectively and with an eye towards superior and faster return on invested capital and a stronger emphasis on financial performance as opposed to size and volumes, says Mr Boyd.

“Concession terms must now reflect the conditions of the ‘New Normal’ for the container industry; APMT is a port and terminal operator, not a financial institution.”

DP World handled 13m teu across its 50 operating terminals in the third quarter 2010, an increase of 14% against the same period in 2009. DPW is also reporting a 15% increase for the first three quarters, to 36.7m, compared with last year.

“We have continued to invest in new capacity in emerging markets in line with market demand,” says global corporate communications manager Natasha Boukhary.

DPW’s development in Callao, Peru, opened towards the end of the second quarter, and its developments at Vallarpadam, India and Karachi, Pakistan are both scheduled to be open by the end of 2010.

DPW has also invested in infrastructure during 2010 through upgrading existing facilities at Djazair, Southampton and Aden, with new state-of-the-art cranes to boost efficiency, adds Ms Boukhary. “We have also expanded and extended our concession in Egypt, DP World Sokhna, and won a major concession extension in Mozambique’s port of Maputo.”

Meanwhile, dredging and reclamation work for the new London Gateway has been progressing in recent months, with new “land” now rapidly emerging. While there are still question marks about when we can expect the first London Gateway berths to be operational, there is new deepwater capacity for the UK almost ready for action at Hutchison Ports (UK)’s Port of Felixstowe.

The 730 m quay wall for Berths 8 and 9 of the Felixstowe expansion is now complete, as is the dredging to deepen the water alongside to 16 m. The first five rows of the storage yard, which will eventually accommodate 20,000 teu, are all but complete and the first reefer gantries are in place.

The new berths will be served by seven 24-box outreach ship-to-shore gantry cranes, which are “significantly larger” than any other cranes available in the UK, says HPUK. The first five have already been delivered and installed, and two more will arrive next year.

“Berths 8 and 9 will take Felixstowe’s capacity well beyond anything else currently contemplated for the UK,” says a spokesman for HPUK. Phase 2 of the project will increase the quay to 1,285 m and add another six quay cranes.

For a couple of “as new” quay cranes, one would have to look no further than just up the coast from Felixstowe, where EastPort Great Yarmouth has announced it will be closing its container terminal before either of its two cranes, costing £7m together, have seen action. Singapore’s PSA International has a 60% stake in the container terminal and the rest is held by International Port Holdings; it is unclear what PSA’s position will now be, and although it is understood that the cranes will be taken away, no details have been given as to their future location.

Elsewhere, two main PSA port projects have started in 2010. Pusan Newport International Terminal (PNIT), a joint venture with Hanjin Corporation, started operations in March; it has three deepwater berths and 2m teu capacity.

At the time of writing, the new 1.5m teu Zeebrugge International Port (formerly Albert II Container Terminal), was due to start operations shortly, having taken delivery of four twin-lift super post-panamax quay cranes. ZIP has a potential capacity 1.5m teu which, added to PSA’s existing operations at the Container Handling Zeebrugge terminal, brings its total capacity at the port to 2.6m teu, across a total 2,300 m of quay and 19 quay cranes.

PSA is also bidding for JNPT4 (Jawaharlal Nehru Port Trust) in India.

Gulftainer’s story is rather different from HPH, DPW or PSA: last year it actually saw a 10% increase in throughput at its two Sharjah terminals, to 2.75m teu.

“We had a decent year last year and this year is also not a bad year for us because of the surrounding region,” says commercial manager Keith Nuttall. Taking Dubai’s problems out of the equation, the rest of the region is performing really strongly, including other parts of the UAE, Saudi Arabia and Iraq, he says. “A year ago, nobody was talking about Iraq but now it is a lot closer on people’s radar. And Qatar may be smaller, but it is booming. We have been able to capitalise on that strong regional growth.

Gulftainer operates Khorfakkan Container Terminal (KCT) and Sharjah Container Terminal (SCT) on behalf of Sharjah Port Authority.

“Fortunately we had put in our terminal expansion [at KCT], which was completed last year,” says Mr Nuttall. “So it now has 20 gantry cranes and is able to cope with the largest containerships that exist – and we can deal with these very big ships quicker than anybody else, which is in the present economic environment attractive for most customers. There is a lot of business in this wider region, including in inland areas stretching off some of the ports, so the general environment is relatively buoyant – and we have been able to make the most of that.”

Images for this article - click to enlarge

Felixstowe’s extension will take its capacity beyond anything else currently contemplated for the UK Gulftainer's forward planning meant its KCT expansion was quick to pick up big containership business Strong regional growth has boosted Gulftainer's throughput The new 1.5m teu Zeebrugge International Port is ready for business Port Strategy: Port Strategy: The new 1.5m teu Zeebrugge International Port is ready for business

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