Drewry: Modest Growth Expected for Global Container Port Demand

Container terminalIllustration; Source: Pixabay

Global container port demand is heading toward a modest growth and numerous uncertainties, accompanied with muted capacity expansion plans.

Most world regions would therefore see an increase in average terminal utilisation, shipping consultancy Drewry said in its Global Container Terminal Operators report.

Drewry’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 784 million TEU in 2018 to 973 million TEU by 2023, an absolute increase of almost 190 million TEU.

The latest five-year forecast is a far cry from the heady days of the 2000s when forecasts were around 9% growth per annum until the global financial crisis of 2007-08 brought this to a shuddering halt.

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 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. As a consequence, average utilisation at the global level is forecast to increase significantly from 70% in 2018 to 79% by 2023, according to Drewry.

At the regional level, almost all locations are projected to see their average utilisation levels increase, the shipping consultancy noted, adding that the sharpest upward swings are expected in Greater China and Southeast Asia, with the former hitting 100% by 2023.

Among the top seven individual global/international terminal operators, based on their performance, PSA and Hutchison occupy first and second places respectively, with PSA’s pre-eminence due to its 20% stake in Hutchison Ports.

Cosco moved up to third place in 2018 from fifth in 2017 by achieving over 30% growth, boosted by the OOCL acquisition. This meant that DP World and APMT each dropped one place to fourth and fifth place respectively. China Merchants with 35 million TEU and TiL with 26.5 million TEU remained in sixth and seventh places respectively despite both recording double-digit growth in equity-adjusted volume.

“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,” Neil Davidson, Drewry’s senior analyst for ports and terminals, said.

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