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Terminals face big challenge of sharp rise in box volumes through 2024

CONTAINER terminals are being urged to brace for hundreds of millions of additional TEU globally over the next decade, a challenge for terminals over and above the painful transition to an era of big ships.

Terminals face big challenge of sharp rise in box volumes through 2024
26 November 2014 - 23:28

Terminals face big challenge of sharp rise in box volumes through 2024

CONTAINER terminals are being urged to brace for hundreds of millions of additional TEU globally over the next decade, a challenge for terminals over and above the painful transition to an era of big ships.

"Container trade growth, even at a slower rate, still outpaces global growth," Clarksons lead container analyst Trevor Crowe told the Journal of Commerce's Port Performance Conference-Europe in London.

Mr Crowe predicts container volumes will on average grow five per cent through 2024, with growth expected to hit six per cent 2014 and 6.7 per cent in 2015. 

In the five per cent growth scenario, throughput would grow from 692 million TEU lifts in 2014 to 1.15 billion TEU lifts by 2024, an additional 458 million TEU. The figure refers to total lifts, including empties. 

Even in a low-growth scenario of two per cent, throughput still reaches 993 million TEU by 2024, an additional 301 million TEU on top of today's volumes. 

The high-growth scenario in which average growth accelerates to eight per cent yields to 1.32 billion TEU by 2024, comes with an additional 628 million TEU over current volumes.

Mr Crowe agreed container growth is slowing - liftings grew by an average of 11.7 per cent in the 1970s and 1980s and had slowed to a 6.9 per cent pace since 2010, but he said the drivers of growth haven't exhausted themselves. 

Conversion of cargoes to containers from other modes is still ongoing, the Chinese consumer is an emerging factor and intra-Asia component trade is huge and growing, with wage differentials still driving multi-location processing, he said. 

The result is that in understanding pressures on ports, underlying container growth can't be ignored. Mr Crowe concluded that the focus in container shipping is now returning to ports after a hiatus since the onset of the financial crisis in 2007. 

"The downturn in trade volumes provided a bit of breathing space," he said, but many ports didn't take advantage by continuing to invest through the downturn. "Now we are under-investing in extra port capacity to make the world's liner and container shipping network work."

His presentation was one of several at the conference that pointed to rapidly growing pressures on terminals, particularly from big ships, and no clear answers on how productivity will rise to the challenge and keep vessels and cargo on schedule. 

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