Opportunities emerge in Med market change
Mediterranean ports, which had container throughput of more than 19 million teu (20 ft equivalent units) last year, are forecast to exceed 53 million teu by 2015.
A report by British-based Drewry Consultants estimated that public terminals handled 14.7 million teu last year while privately managed terminals handled 15.3 million teu.
The Mediterranean had undergone tremendous change in the past few years and accommodated both small and large container vessels; previously only big vessels were welcome.
Change had not been universal and opportunities existed for further improvements in some ports.
Half of the region's capacity was still in public hands and the potential for privatisation, concessions and management contracts at the ports in Israel, Turkey, Greece, Egypt and Cyprus, among others, was good, the report said.
Recently, the Mediterranean's largest publicly owned and operated terminal, Malta Freeport, had been put up for privatisation.
As the need to deal with ever-larger ships was growing, the 30-odd companies in the terminal business would see consolidation and acquisitions.
Gateway terminals were more profitable than transshipment hubs.
'Developments in the transshipment sector tend to grab the headlines but their high profile hides fiercely competitive handling charges of around US$50 per move,' the report said.
Margins at transshipment hubs were tight and high-volume throughput was necessary for success.
Gateway ports, with less footloose traffic, seemed to be able to generate better margins.
The obvious danger in the transshipment sector was overcapacity. In the period up to 2005, while use of gateway terminals was expected to rise, use of transshipment terminals was likely to fall because of the 8.6 million teu of new capacity expected to come on stream.
Expansion at Algeciras, Sines, Tanger-Atlantique and Gibraltar would double current capacity.
The report said that while the short term might not look so promising, the transshipment sector would require at least another 13 million teu of additional capacity to meet projected demand while maintaining acceptable levels of service.