Drewry expects container terminal utilisation rates to rise to an average of 79% over the next few years due to the “muted” level of capacity expansion plans in the pipeline.
The consultant’s container port demand forecast for the next five years is for global growth of 4.4% per annum on average, lifting world container port throughput from 784m teu in 2018 to 973m teu by 2023.
This is significantly below the 9% levels seen until the global financial crisis in 2007/08. 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 (CAGR) of around 2%, based on confirmed additions only.
This is well below the projected demand growth and reflects the continued easing off from greenfield projects by investors over the last few years.
Consequently, average utilisation at the global level is forecast to increase significantly from 70% in 2018 to 79% by 2023. This figure remains a comfortable level for both operators and customer alike, noted the analyst.
Referring to China, Neil Davidson, 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.”
Meanwhile, Drewry also noted that a “premier league of seven big operators” has emerged, dominating the global ports industry.
These comprise, PSA, Hutchison Ports, COSCO Shipping Ports, DP World, APM Terminals (APMT), China Merchants Port Holdings (CM Port) and Terminal Investment Limited (TIL).
Ranked by equity-adjusted throughput, PSA handled the most cargo last year – more than 60m teu – although this was partly due to its 20% stake in Hutchison Ports.
COSCO moved to third place from firth by achieving over 30% growth, boosted by the OOCL acquisition.
DP World and 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 (35m teu) and TIL (26.5m teu) remained in sixth and seventh places respectively despite both recording double-digit growth in equity-adjusted volume.
Davidson added: “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.”