Drewry: Hybrid Global Terminal Operators on the Rise

Image Courtesy: APM Terminals

More international terminal portfolios are likely to move into the hybrid category in the coming years, as pure carrier terminal portfolios diminish over time, shipping consultancy Drewry said.

Therefore, the majority of global/international terminal operator portfolios should end up being run more as profit centres than cost centres. Drewry’s latest report on global/international terminal operators shows that terminal portfolios owned by carriers – but operated at arm’s length – are the key growth sector.

The emergence of the mega-liner alliances coupled with large-scale M&A in the container shipping sector is changing the nature of the terminals business as well.

In this year’s report, a key finding is the rise of hybrid global terminal operators. Although the stevedores remain the largest category, it is the hybrids that have shown the strongest growth over the last few years, while the pure carrier portfolio volumes have declined.

Global/international hybrids are companies for which the main activity is container shipping, but one where a separate terminals division exists as a business unit. These companies generally handle third-party traffic as well as the associated liner shipping business, and are generally more profit centres than cost centres. However, the extent to which the terminal divisions operate independent of their parent shipping line varies and the dividing line between stevedores and hybrids on the one side, and carriers and hybrids on the other, is not distinct.

The operators and their categories are already undergoing change. Hanjin is no more, and OOCL is being acquired by China Cosco and so will move across to the hybrid category. When the three Japanese lines merge in 2018 and their international terminal portfolios come together as part of this process, the international MOL and K Line terminals may well join NYK in the hybrid category.

Lastly, the recent corporate restructuring and strategic change by APM Terminal’s parent AP Moller suggests that in the future, APMT will operate in closer conjunction with Maersk Line, moving it more towards the hybrid category.

This will leave just Evergreen, Yang Ming and Hyundai with terminal portfolios in the carrier category.

When looking at the three alliances, 2M and Ocean members have far more substantial terminal interests than THE alliance members. The Ocean alliance is seeing a greater coalescence of terminal interests, with the acquisition of OOCL by China Cosco and an MoU between CMA CGM and China Cosco designed to foster cooperation between their two terminal portfolios.

“The rise of the hybrids is a reflection of the increasingly intertwined nature of terminal businesses and liner shipping, with the emergence of the three mega-alliances along with liner industry consolidation meaning that the risks of terminal operations are increasing, as well as the costs,” Drewry said.

Addressing these challenges is resulting in closer cooperation between terminals and lines, both day-to-day and strategically, through joint investments, joint ventures and also by opting for the hybrid category as a strategic solution.

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