China Shipping Container Lines

CSCL unit buys 24pc stake in terminal in Belgium

PUBLISHED : Friday, 15 March, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 15 March, 2013, 4:38am

China Shipping Terminal Development will make its first terminal investment in Europe after agreeing to buy a 24 per cent stake in APM Terminals Zeebrugge in Belgium.

The move came six months after the firm, which is wholly owned by China Shipping Container Lines, expressed interest in taking a stake in the Zeebrugge facility, one of three terminals at the Belgian port.

The company will acquire its interest from APM Terminals, the ports division of Danish shipping, oil and aviation group AP Moller-Maersk, which owns 75 per cent. Shanghai International Port Group holds the remaining 25 per cent interest in APM Terminals Zeebrugge which it bought for €27.16 million (HK$274 million) in 2010.

Mark Geilenkirchen, managing director of APM Terminals Zeebrugge, declined to say how much China Shipping will pay for its stake, but he hoped it would generate more box traffic through the terminal.

"The reason why we are selling is that we get hold of an Asian carrier," Geilenkirchen said.

He said CSCL has one service calling at Zeebrugge, adding that talks to expand the number of services are being held.

Geilenkirchen confirmed China Shipping Terminal first started talking "in September last year". He said: "We have just signed the memorandum of understanding" setting out China Shipping's intent to buy the stake and the deal should be finalised by the end of June.

China Shipping Terminal Development has stakes in terminals in Los Angeles, Seattle and Egypt together with interests in 13 port facilities in China.

The two-berth Zeebrugge terminal handles about 350,000 20-foot equivalent units (teu) a year but has an annual handling capacity of one million teu. "There is a bit of room to grow," Geilenkirchen said.

He said there are plans to extend the existing 900-metre quay by 400 metres to create a third berth and facilities to handle barges and feeder vessels.

Jan Vannieuwenburg, general manager for China and Asia for the Port of Zeebrugge, said the deal sent "a very important message to the Chinese market. More than 50 per cent of Zeebrugge's cargo is China-related".

CSCL owns and operates a fleet of about 140 vessels including eight 14,074 teu container ships dedicated on Asia-Europe services that are among the largest in the world.

Vannieuwenburg said: "14,000-teu ships are a piece of cake for us. We can handle them 24 hours a day with no tidal restrictions. It's no secret that since we opened the China office (in Shanghai in 2010) we have been in regular contact with China Shipping and Cosco."

Pointing to Zeebrugge's location he said the port is "90 kilometres closer to Cologne than Hamburg" as well as being closer to markets in northern France than French ports such as Le Havre.