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Med ports experience volume growth but share capacity limit concerns

CAPACITY issues and changing trade patterns could hinder the growth prospects for some of the Mediterranean's ports where the region's trade lanes connect with the Middle East, Africa, Asia and Europe

Med ports experience volume growth but share capacity limit concerns
26 October 2018 - 19:00

CAPACITY issues and changing trade patterns could hinder the growth prospects for some of the Mediterranean's ports where the region's trade lanes connect with the Middle East, Africa, Asia and Europe.

At the southeastern end of the Mediterranean, the 120-mile long Suez Canal that connects the Red Sea to the Mediterranean handles 17,500 vessels accounting for 900 million tons of cargo per annum.



Ports like the Spanish ports of Valencia, and Algeciras, Tanger-Med in Morocco, Malta's Marsaxlokk along with the Egyptian ports like Damietta, Port Said and Alexandria are transhipment hubs not only for freight moving throughout the greater Mediterranean region but also act as a connector to ports as distant as the Americas or the Far East, reported the American Journal of Transportation.



The Port of Valencia's short-term target is to hit the five million TEU mark in 2018. Through August, the port handled 3,331,151 TEU compared to 3,168,668 TEU in 2017. The 5.13 per cent increase puts it on a pace to eclipse the five million mark.



Conversely, Algeciras tallied 4.4 million TEU in 2017 down from 4.8 million in 2016, although the dip in container throughput is likely to be reversed this year.



In the first half of the year the port of Algeciras' container throughput at the Juan Carlos I and Isla Verde Exterior terminals rose by 8.4 per cent year on year (2.3 million TEU) to reach 30 million tons. Imports and exports between the ports of Algeciras and Tangier Med in Morocco rose 6.5 per cent year on year.



In the western Med is Tanger-Med 1, located in Morocco on the south side of the Straits of Gibraltar. The port, which bills itself as 'The New Mediterranean Strategic Hub,' is something of a work in progress. The port, less than a decade old in 2017, handled 3,312,409 TEU, which are 11 per cent above estimated capacity and enough to place it in the top 50 container ports in the world.



The port is constructing Tanger-Med 2 for opening in 2019, which will add an additional six million TEU to the current capacity. The goal is to place the African hub port into the top 20 container ports in the world.



The northern Mediterranean ports like Spain's Barcelona, France's Marseilles or the Italian ports of Genoa and La Spezia are integrated into the European hinterland through rail and road networks. The ports have seen rising totals and 2018 looks to be even better.



In the case of Barcelona, the port's volume jumped by 32.3 per cent from 2016 to 2017, going from 2,243,584 TEU to 2,968,757 TEU. The numbers are trending for an even bigger year in 2018. Through August, the port has tallied 2,242,139 TEU compared to 1,968,540 TEU in 2017, a 13.9 per cent increase.



La Spezia is making a strong push to extend the port's cargo catchment zone deep into Europe. The port is adding two million TEU in capacity with half of the traffic expected to be handled by rail.



Genoa is running through August just ahead of last year at 1,797,659 TEU, up from 1,768,581 TEU. In September Genoa received a shipment of new electric cranes at Voltri Terminal Europa (VTE) to replace the diesel-powered yard cranes. An order was placed for 21 rail-mounted gantry cranes, the first electric cranes to be deployed in the port of Genoa, as part of PSA Voltri-Pra's investment programme.



Marseilles seems poised to cross the 1.4 million TEU mark this year. In 2017 the port developed and added 55 hectares of logistics space. There is another 101 hectares of dedicated logistics space scheduled for development in 2018.



There is arguably no greater transshipment port in pan-Europe than Malta's Marsaxlokk. In 2017 the port's throughput was 3,150,000 TEU. A study by the Dutch maritime consultancy firm Dynamar estimated that 95 per cent of Marsaxlokk's (Malta Freeport) throughput was transhipment.



The port is equipped to handle 20,000 TEU ships and is reportedly operating at full capacity. The port is investing in adding upwards to 4.5 million TEU in new capacity - a majority of the planned investment is in squaring off terminal two with a significant investment in new equipment.



Like Malta, Gioa Tauro is a key transshipment port for liner services in the Mediterranean. Improvements to the Medcenter Container Terminal began in October. The project will include renovations to 60,000 square metres of transit areas, 70,000 square metres of quay surface and a 12-metre widening of the quay's vehicle transit area.



The expansion of the Suez Canal has supported the Egyptian ports at the Mediterranean entrance. Port Said in 2017 handled 2,989,897 TEU, while Alexandria is estimated to top 1,700,000 TEU and Damietta posted 1,131,226 TEU.



In September, China Harbour Engineering Company (CHEC) began the main phase of the construction of a new terminal basin in Sokhna port, south of the Suez Canal in northeast Egypt. DP World is the main investor and the container operator in the port. Sokhna port is located within the Suez Canal economic zone (SCZone), which is one of Egypt's mega projects to attract foreign investments.

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