Mega Boxships and Rising Demand Fueling Port Investment Race

Rising global container port demand and ever larger vessels are driving terminal operators to make significant investments in additional capacity, according to the Global Container Terminal Operators Annual Report 2015 published by global shipping consultancy Drewry.

Drewry predicts average global container port demand growth of 4.5% per annum through to 2019. This equates to an additional 168 million teu of port traffic, bringing the global total to nearly 850 million teu. Asia accounts for over 60% of the forecast global demand growth. At the same time, the deployment of ultra large container ships and the formation of new mega alliances are adding to capacity pressures on global/international terminal operators.

Mega Boxships and Rising Demand Trigger Port Investment Race1
Source: Drewry

In response to this, a number of the 23 companies that are considered by Drewry to be global/international terminal operators are making significant investments in additional capacity over the next five years.

APM Terminals and DP World are the most active in terms of the number of new projects in the pipeline, but PSA International is adding the most capacity in absolute terms, particularly in its home port of Singapore, Drewry says.

Hutchison, CMA CGM, TIL and ICTSI also have significant plans, with the latter’s expansion representing a 40% increase over the current capacity of its portfolio. The primary expansion focus of the global/international terminal operators is greenfield developments in emerging market locations, with acquisition and divestment activity having reduced from last year.

According to Drewry, owning and operating container terminals on an international basis remains a profitable business but is facing significant challenges ahead.

“The typical EBITDA margins for global/international terminal operators remain in a range from 20-45% and the 2014 financial results were much in line with previous years, illustrating the consistency and reliability of container terminal operators’ profitability. However, maintaining these margins will become increasingly challenging in the face of the demands created by bigger ships and alliances,” Neil Davidson, Drewry’s Senior Analyst for Ports and Terminals, said.

“The global container terminal industry is facing unprecedented challenges as a result of the deployment of ever larger container ships, combined with the creation of larger shipping line alliances. These two interrelated factors are placing significantly greater demands on ports and terminals and having far reaching consequences, driving up operating costs and capital expenditure requirements.”

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