Acceleration in port capacity investment insufficient to support cargo demand growth

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Surging container shipping cargo demand in the wake of the pandemic has resulted in a significant improvement in the global terminal capacity outlook, but this may not be sufficient to support forecast traffic levels, according to the latest Global Container Terminal Operators Annual Review and Forecast report published by global shipping consultancy Drewry.

Drewry’s annual survey of the world’s leading terminal operators reveals the resilience of the sector to external shocks. Volumes, in the main, were down, but earnings less so as operators moved quickly to control costs. Capital expenditure was reined in during 2020, but the outlook is much improved.

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Eleanor Hadland, author of the report and Drewry’s senior analyst for ports and terminals said: “The strength of the recovery in demand, aided by high levels of liquidity in the financial market, have enabled operators to bring forward their investment plans, resulting in a stronger capacity outlook post-pandemic.”

Global container port capacity is projected to increase by an average 2.5% per year to reach 1.3 billion teu in 2025. With global demand set to rise by an average 5% per annum over the same period, average utilisation rates will increase from the current 67% to over 75%. While 75% utilisation at a port or terminal level is not sufficiently high to be of major concern, at a global level this expectation of tightening port capacity in a market plagued by congestion due to supply chain imbalances is a cause for concern.

Eleanor Hadland, Senior Analyst, Ports and Terminals