Home » Breaking News, Ports/Terminals » Box terminal utilization to increase over next five years—Drewry forecast

Global container port utilization rates are expected to rise in the next few years as capacity expansion plans remain muted even with a projected modest growth in demand amid numerous uncertainties, according to the Global Container Terminal Operators Annual Review and Forecast 2019 by global shipping consultancy Drewry.

Drewry’s container port demand forecast for the next five years is for global growth of 4.4% each year on average, lifting world container port throughput from 784 million twenty foot equivalent units (TEUs) in 2018 to 973 million TEUs by 2023, an absolute increase of almost 190 million TEUs.

“The latest five-year forecast is a far cry from the heady days of the 2000s when forecasts were around 9% growth per annum until the global financial crisis of 2007-08 brought this to a shuddering halt,” said Drewry.

Several locations are expected to outperform markedly the global average, most notably Middle East/South Asia and Southeast Asia/Far East.

Global container port capacity is projected to increase at a compound annual growth rate or CAGR of around 2%. This is well below the projected demand growth and reflects the continued easing off from greenfield projects by investors over the last few years.

As a consequence, average utilization at the global level is forecast to increase significantly from 70% in 2018 to 79% by 2023. This though remains a comfortable level for both operators and customer alike, said Drewry.

At the regional level, almost all locations are projected to see their average utilization levels increase. The sharpest upward swings are expected in Greater China and Southeast Asia (with the former hitting 100% by 2023).

Referring to China, Neil Davidson, author of the report and Drewry’s senior analyst for ports and terminals, said, The previous very rapid pace of capacity expansion is on hold, with the focus instead being on consolidation of port and terminal ownership into large groups. This, plus the uncertainty about China’s international trade growth in the face of tariff wars and protectionism, suggests that the government is taking a cautious approach.”

The top seven global/international terminal operators are led by PSA International and Hutchison Ports in first and second places, respectively, with PSA’s pre-eminence due to its 20% stake in Hutchison Ports. Fortunes varied—PSA volume was up 7% and topped 60 million TEUs while Hutchison’s was largely unchanged at just under 47 million TEUs.

Cosco Shipping moved up to third place in 2018 (from fifth in 2017) by achieving over 30% growth, boosted by the OOCL acquisition. This meant that DP World and APM Terminals (APMT) each dropped one place to fourth and fifth, respectively. The latter registered nearly 8% growth, helped by the closer relationship with Maersk Line resulting in more of the carrier traffic directed to APMT facilities.

China Merchants Ports (35 million TEUs) and Terminal Investment Limited (26.5 million TEUs) remained in sixth and seventh places, respectively, despite both recording double-digit growth in equity-adjusted volume.

“A premier league of seven big operators has emerged, after which the next largest player is a third of the size. Between them they accounted for nearly 40% of global throughput in 2018. Within this elite group, Cosco has moved sharply up the table in this year’s analysis,” added Davidson.

Photo: jordi domènech

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