Home » Ports/Terminals » Global container terminals post “healthy growth” in 2010 – Drewry report

After the economic downturn in 2009, almost all of the global container terminal operators saw a return to healthy growth in 2010, according to the latest annual port sector report by Drewry Maritime Research.

On average, terminal use was up in 2010, with operators increasing their EBITDA compared with 2009, according to the “Global Container Terminal Operators 2011” report.

The main international terminal operators mostly maintained their positions in 2010, with those having significant interests in Chinese ports achieving particularly high growth.

PSA International was the leading global terminal operator in 2010 (by equity TEU throughput), followed by Hutchison Ports, DP World, APM Terminals and the Cosco Group.

Though the effects of the downturn are still seen among many operators and in the industry as a whole, global operators are now reactivating many terminal investments deferred during the financial crisis, Drewry said.

“The current indications are that in the next five years demand growth will significantly outstrip capacity expansion, leading to rapidly rising utilization levels in many ports and regions of the world,” it said.

The rapid increase in usage is likely to be most pronounced in the Far East and southeast Asia, where average utilization levels could exceed 90 percent by 2016 unless more capacity expansion projects are undertaken.

Latin America and the Middle East will also see similar pressures, as will Africa to a lesser extent.

In mature markets such as North America and north Europe, the pressure is less because demand growth is not expected to be as strong.

Surprisingly, despite current severe congestion in ports in India, average utilization levels in south Asia could fall by 2016 because of large expansion projects in the pipeline. However, whether they are all built to the scale and on the timing their developers say they will be remains to be seen.

Drewry also identified emerging players that could break into the top 20 international terminal operator league in 2011.

“Several strong companies are mounting serious challenges to enter the big league based on very strong cash positions and the incumbent international operators will need to be ready to face this new competition,” said Neil Davidson, Drewry’s senior advisor for ports.

Among these are China Shipping and China Merchants, whose terminal portfolios are rapidly becoming more international. Shanghai International Ports Group is another, after it made its first international investment with a minority stake in APMT’s Zeebrugge operations.

“It is no coincidence that all three of these operators are based in China and are seeking outlets to invest cash,” the report said.

Other players showing strong signs of international clout include the UAE-based Gulftainer, which has already found opportunities in Iraq and Brazil, and the Turkish-based Yildirim Group, which appears to be using its 20 percent stake in CMA CGM as a springboard for terminal expansion.

“The appetite for investing in the container terminals business has returned strongly,” said Davidson. “There is evidence of increased M&A and privatization activity and also signs of renewed interest in bidding for greenfield developments.”

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