"Our analysis shows that even when a shipping line has a significant stake in a terminal, this doesn't necessarily mean that the port is selected for the network schedule," said Drewry's senior analyst for ports and terminals, Neil Davidson. "The picture is very varied: in some cases, the correlation is tight, in others there is no obvious logic at all."
Drewry said it looked at both gateway markets in the Benelux countries, the Southwest Pacific, Southwest and South China/Hong Kong, as well as at transshipment hubs in Southeast Asia, the Mediterranean, the Middle East and Central America/Caribbean, reported American Shipper.
"For gateway ports, you can see that carriers have to bear in mind the port preferences of shippers, for example, so the choice of port is influenced by other factors," Mr Davidson said. "But what was particularly surprising was that for the choice of transshipment hub, which is entirely within the control of a carrier, the correlation was also weak in a number of cases."
As an example, Drewry pointed to ports in Benelux, where it said in its Ports and Terminals Insight report, "The port choices made by the Ocean and THE Alliances correlate very closely to the member lines' terminal interests, but for the 2M, the opposite is true."
"What this analysis shows is that individual lines are not entirely in control of their own destinies when it comes to port choices, as partner lines in their alliances may have conflicting port choice preferences and particular idiosyncrasies," Mr Davidson said.
"Moreover, even if alliance partners have corresponding port preferences, there is still potential for conflict at the terminal level if more than one line in an alliance has interests in different terminals in the same port, as is the case with the Ocean Alliance in Rotterdam for example.