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Overseas volumes drive growth for China Merchants Port Holdings

Overseas volumes drive growth for China Merchants Port Holdings
Bai Jingtao, managing director of CMPort

China Merchants Port Holdings (CMPort) saw container throughput rise by 8% across its terminal portfolio to 120.5m teu last year, boosted by the global economic recovery in the second half of 2020, particularly at its overseas terminals.

Volume growth from the group’s ports in mainland China, Hong Kong and Taiwan was flat whereas overseas operations delivered a 39% increase, supported by the contribution of eight terminals acquired by Terminal Link.

The acquisition stretched the operator’s port network into Southeast Asia, the Middle East, Europe and the Caribbean Sea, while Lomé Container Terminal in Togo, TCP Participações in Brazil and Colombo International Container Terminals (CICT) also delivered growth.

Revenue and recurrent profit remained flat although the recurrent profits derived from port operations dropped by 17% to HK$4.7bn (US$600m).

During the year, the company developed its “homebase” ports of West Shenzhen Port Zone, and CICT and Hambantota International Port Group (HIPG) in Sri Lanka.

Improvements at West Shenzhen featured the construction of channels and infrastructure, integrated operation, and the development of Mawan Smart Port.

Meanwhile, the group looked to enhance collaboration between its Sri Lankan terminals, aiming to establish shipping hubs in South Asia.

Highlighting the port operator’s strategy, Bai Jingtao, managing director of CMPort, said: “CMPort will adhere to the strategic goal of constructing “World Class” ports and pay attention to green port and safe port, especially to strengthen the construction of intelligent port.

“At the same time speeding up port automation and port [intelligence] through the guidance and promotion of intelligent port and big data.”

The company has begun implementing the “Port-Park-City” model with focal projects in Djibouti and Sri Lanka. In particular, HIPG has contracted and registered 26 enterprises in its industrial parks, and Djibouti International Free Trade Zone reached 114 enterprises.

With regards to “intelligent” ports, the first berth of the Mawan Smart Port was constructed featuring artificial intelligence (AI), the application of a 5G network, a high precision positioning system, automation, blockchain and green development.

The company is additionally working with technology companies, such as Tencent and Alibaba, to explore the establishment of an open platform for intelligent ports.

Robin Li, deputy general manager at CMPort, stated: “In terms of technological innovation and digitisation, blockchain is used to solve the common problems faced by the port industry. Cooperation with leading technology enterprises such as Tencent, Ant Financial, Alibaba and Pingan, we are able to solve the problem of account and goods consistency for the participants within the supply chain and logistic system.

“Looking forward, CMPort will continue to enlarge cooperation with internet companies to build a new logistics platform and system serving domestic trade within our projects such as the Guangdong, Hong Kong and Macao coordinated ports and the domestic north-south shipping routes.”

During the first two months of 2021, the operator’s container volumes have increased by 28% year-on-year, of which the Greater China region recorded a year-on-year growth of 18%.

Responding to the ongoing supply chain disruption, Jeffrey Li, general manager of strategy and operations at CMPort, said: “The blockage of the Suez Canal will have a short term chain effect.

“Ports may see severer shortage and accumulation of empty containers, yet we believe there will be a solution under the efforts of all parties, the impact for the whole year will be limited.”