Dynamar: Container Volumes and Terminal Capacity in Mediterranean

Container Volumes and Terminal Capacity in Mediterranean

Dynamar has just issued its latest report in the Ports and Terminals series, titled “Container Volumes and Terminal Capacity in the Mediterranean”.

Down and up

The September 2009 collapse of Lehman Bros turned financial turmoil into a worldwide economic crisis culminating in a global downturn of the container trades of proportions not seen before. Container terminal capacity, which had become tight everywhere, quickly turned into overcapacity across the world, including the Mediterranean. Expansion plans became subject to demand and new projects were delayed, postponed or cancelled altogether. Valuations of port companies tumbled from their excessive heights of just a few years ago.

The recovery started earlier than expected and exceeded both carriers’ and ports’ wildest expectations. In two years’ time, container volumes between the Mediterranean and the Far East increased by 38% to 7.2 million TEU in 2011. In the smaller Med-US trade, it was 20% to 1.83 million TEU.

Present volumes and terminals

If including transhipment and empties, the Far East and USA trades together, the two main East-West trades connecting with the Mediterranean were responsible for some 20 million TEU of Mare Internum port container handlings last year. Therewith, the two made up for 43% of the total 47 million TEU throughput at all 42 ports across the Mediterranean accommodating Far East and North America services.

This report provides identically structured profiles of all 98 container terminals in these 42 ports. In 2011, the existing box facilities there offered 72 kilometres quay length, equipped with 440 ship-to-shore container gantries plus some 120 mobile harbour cranes to load and discharge the ships. Their joint annualised capacity was 70 million TEU while they handled a combined container volume of nearly 47 million TEU.

Present terminals in the South European part of the West Mediterranean hold a share of 45% of the total capacity with the facilities in the five Levant countries coming second with 19%, equal to 13.5 million TEU.

Expansion and new projects

Expansion of existing terminals and new projects are to add another 46 million TEU capacity over the ten years 2012 through to 2021. By the latter year, the overall annualised container handling capacity in the same ports may have reached 114 million TEU, an increase of 63%. The question of course is whether the container trades will keep pace with this growth. For the combined Mediterranean-Far East and North America box routes the increase was 133% over the past 10 years.

However, new greenfield, brownfield and even bluefield container terminals are in the planning too in other ports across the Mediterranean. All told, there are 31 projects and intentions with individual capacities ranging from 400,000 TEU up to 3 million TEU, most of them to be launched in phases. The time span within which they may come to the market is between 2013 and 2030. The bluefield project concerns an offshore container terminal to be built in the Upper-Adriatic, just a few nautical miles outside of the Venice Lagoon.

Dynamic Turkey

But the largest share of new capacity is to be developed in Turkey, currently the strongest growing Mediterranean economy. Out of the minimum seven new terminal projects in this country, four quite large ones with a combined ultimate capacity for 7.4 million TEU are effectively being built on the shores of the near internal Sea of Marmara. If all built out, those will increase by nearly 80% the current capacity of the no less than eleven/11 existing facilities there, already handling containers.

On the Aegean coast, Izmir has long been the single Turkish box port. Since late 2009, its terminal, suffering from under-investment, is facing competition from two new facilities in Aliaga/Nemrut Bay 50 kilometres to the north. One of those is equipped with exclusive, if not rare, double-boom ship-to-shore container gantry cranes. The development of a third Nemrut Bay terminal, to be operated by APM Terminals, is bound to start. The building of Çandarli, yet another new, nearby Aegean port was kicked off in mid-2010.

By 2023, when the Turkish Republic is to celebrate its 100-year existence, the country’s overall container port capacity should have reached 30 million TEU to handle the 80% going by sea of its expected USD 500 billion foreign trade. In 2011, the figures were USD 135 billion (trade) and 11 million (TEU capacity), while currently 16 million TEU new terminal capacity is underway or in the planning.

International and Global Terminal Operators

It is not local companies only operating container terminals in the Mediterranean, to the contrary. The top ten Global Terminal Operators as well as another eight international stevedores hold stakes of between 18% and 100% in more than 50 terminals. Such a penetration can definitely be considered an endorsement of the importance and viability of the Mediterranean port and terminal industry as well as the area’s trade potential.

Big ships sailing into small Seas

Also in the Mediterranean there is the issue of ever larger ships built faster than the port and terminal industry that has to handle them. This in particular goes for the Ultra Large Container Ship of over 10,000 TEU, which has proven to be the most economical for the carriers to operate, if fully loaded. Exactly 100 ULCS are deployed in 10 of the 32 shipping services connecting Mediterranean ports with those in the Far East. As may be expected, most of them call at the large Gibraltar Straits, central West Med and Suez Canal hubs, some also serve the major West (Europe) Med gateways.

However, it may come as a surprise that every week a 14,000 TEU ULCS sails all the way through the Dardanelles into the Sea of Marmara to serve one terminal in the Istanbul/Ambarli area and another one at Izmit Bay. The present average capacity of all box vessels sailing between the Mediterranean and the Far East is 8,400 TEU – to/from North America it is a more manageable, for the average Med port facility, 4,100 TEU.


Press Release, September 26, 2012