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ESPO
ANNUAL REPORT 2006-2007

 

I. EXECUTIVE SUMMARY

Introduction

It is important that policy initiatives are based on a sound knowledge of market processes. This is especially relevant in the context of the preparations for a European seaport policy which the European Commission has embarked upon in 2006 and which is expected to lead to a concrete action plan in Autumn 2007.

The first main section of this report aims to provide input to this process by analysing the following five markets: the container market, the RoRo market, the market for conventional cargo, the liquid bulk market and the dry bulk market. Detailed statistics on cargo handling in European seaports are provided as well as an overview of main developments and trends in each of the market segments. The report aims for a balanced approach covering all port regions in Europe and large as well as mid-sized and small ports.

The second section provides an overview of relevant European policy initiatives and ESPO activities in the period 2006/2007. It concentrates on the above-mentioned European port policy review but also on the parallel maritime policy consultation. In addition, developments in the field of transport policy, environment as well as safety and security are highlighted.

 

The market environment of ports in 2005/2006

Economic growth and seaborne trade

The global economy has been transformed in recent years by the fall of international barriers to the flow of goods, services, capital and labour, and a marked acceleration in the pace of technological and scientific progress. Technological advances have created new opportunities for businesses against the background of an increasingly complex global economy, while reductions in the cost of transport and communication are spurring companies to move operations to lower cost environments. This has resulted in new growth markets such as China (real GDP growth of 10.2% in 2005 and 10.5% in 2006), India (8.5% both in 2005 and 2006), Turkey (7.4% and 6% respectively) and parts of Central and Eastern Europe. After a year of frail economic growth in 2005, GDP growth in Europe rebound in 2006 to around 3%. The strongest growers in 2006 were Latvia (11.9%), Estonia (10.9%), Slovakia (8%) and Romania (6%). Over the 2007-2012 period, GDP in the Euro Zone is expected to rise on average by 2% per annum.

The growth of the economy is reflected on maritime transportation. International seaborne trade increased by an estimated 3.8% in 2005 to reach a total volume of 7.11 billion tons. Total demand for shipping services reached about 29 billion ton-miles in 2005, representing an increase of 5.1% compared to the year before. Europe remains a massive importer of crude oil and petroleum products with more than half a billion tons in 2005. Europe also remained the largest dry cargo market with more than a billion tons of exports (22.7% of world total) and over 1.5 billion tons of imports (32.3%).

 

The container market

Container shipping has been the fastest growing sector of the maritime industries during the last two decades. Both the Far East-Europe and Transpacific trade have enjoyed healthy 8-9% growth in 2006, and this is expected to continue throughout 2007-2008 as well. The Transatlantic market is significantly smaller (albeit still very important) and also has much lower annual growth rates. Container trade between Europe and Latin America (including Central America, the Caribbean and South America) saw an increase of nearly 16% in two years time. Intra-European containerized trade saw an increase of 19% between 2004 and 2006. Many of the trades continue to be characterized by major imbalances, thereby putting a lot of pressure on box logistics and equipment management.

Total throughput handled by the world’s container ports grew at an average rate of 11% per year in the last five years. Major drivers are increased transhipment traffic and the high growth rates in Asian/Chinese container ports. But also quite a number of European container ports are recording double digit growth figures. Total container throughput in Europe accounts for some 18% of the world total. The top fifteen ports in Europe saw a container throughput of around 54 million teu in 2006, the top three 25.6 million teu. The Le Havre - Hamburg range remains the leading port range in Europe, but a significant number of ports in the West-Mediterranean (in particular Spanish ports), the Black Sea and the Baltic have witnessed healthy growth rates as well. The highest growth rates in 2006 have been realized by Amsterdam, Sines, Zeebrugge, Bremerhaven, Constanza, Gdynia, Tallinn, Kotka and Rauma. The top five strongest growers in TEU terms were Hamburg, Bremerhaven, Antwerp, Rotterdam and Constanza, together adding some 2.7 million TEU to total European port throughput in 2006.

Road transport is still by far the dominant transport mode in most of Europe’s seaports. Modal shift policies are implemented throughout Europe and these policies are starting to pay off on some multimodal inland corridors. However, rail and inland navigation still have not reached their maximum potential. The prospects for rail and barge in smaller ports and new load centers in a start-up phase remain rather precarious.

The period 2005-2006 will be remembered as the era of major consolidation in the container market. Substantial take-over activity took place both on the shipping lines’ side (where mergers have created a handful of gigantic companies controlling several hundred ships, and where a handful of European shortsea operators turned out to be in a very acquisitive mood) as well as on the side of the container terminal operators (with the take-over of P&O Ports by DP World and PSA’s acquisition of a 20% stake in Hutchison Port Holding’s global terminal portfolio as the most cited events). The top-20 container shipping lines carried an estimated 88 million full teu during 2006 or 80% of the world total. Some industry observers argue that we could be on the verge of further consolidation in the liner shipping industry in the years to come. The top-10 terminal operators handle some 55% of the world container throughput. The current situation in the terminal operating sector is somewhat comparable to that of the liner shipping industry, where the four largest shipping lines also control some 40% of the market.

Both major shipping lines and global terminal operators have been very active in securing terminal capacity. The trend towards more carrier involvement in terminals has not escaped the European port scene. Nowadays a substantial number of container terminals in North and South Europe feature a shipping line among their shareholders (in most cases as a minority shareholder).

Finally, the coming years will bring a massive influx of new container tonnage, and the introduction of ever larger post-panamax ships on the arterial trade routes.

 

The RoRo market

RoRo volumes handled in European seaports

Combined European RoRo throughput amounted to 415 million tons in 2005, of which ports in the United Kingdom handled about one quarter. Other major RoRo countries include Italy, Sweden, Germany, Belgium, Denmark, France, Greece, Spain, the Netherlands and Finland. Dover remains the largest European RoRo port followed by Calais, Zeebrugge, Lübeck, Immingham, Rotterdam, Trelleborg and Göteborg.

Seaborne vehicle trade and port volumes

The vehicle manufacturing industry has been characterized by an ever-increasing degree of concentration and globalisation over the last few decades. Emerging markets in Asia, the Middle East, South Africa, Eastern Europe, Russia or South America have rapidly gained in importance in recent years. In Europe the main axes of car assembly and supplier activities are increasingly being complemented by strong developments in Eastern and Central Europe. Seaborne trades are nowadays increasingly focusing on the developing economies and emerging markets mentioned above. About 20-25% of the world car production was exported by ship from their country of manufacture. Europe produces about 20 million new cars on an annual basis with only a relatively small amount of their output exported overseas. Japan and South Korea are the main drivers of maritime export flows.

The main vehicle ports in Europe are Zeebrugge, Bremerhaven, Emden, Antwerp, Barcelona and Southampton. In some of these ports, car carrier operators have invested in dedicated hub terminals from which other destinations are feedered, although a typical roundtrip for a large PCTC nowadays still counts five or six ports in Europe. As far as the European market is concerned, maritime transport of cars is expected to increase steadily over the years to come driven by strong growth in Russia, Eastern Europe and Turkey. The leading deepsea car carrier operators are also heavily involved in the intra-European shortsea trades. This combination of deepsea and regional service provision is part of the general trend towards the ‘one stop shop/total service logistics package’ which operators now have to provide to vehicle manufacturers to retain their business.

Shortsea - Ferries

The markets are being characterized by an increasing focus on freight transport (and thus a reduced focus on passenger transport), less duty-free sales and the deployment of faster and more modern ships. The Mediterranean has witnessed a tonnage rejuvenation in recent years. Important ferry links are Germany/Sweden, Denmark/Sweden, England-Wales/Ireland, England/Scandinavia, Calais/Dover, Valencia/Barcelona to the islands and North Africa, Marseille/Corsica and North Africa, Sicily/Sardinia, Greece, the Adriatic Sea and Tunisia/Algeria/Morocco.

Shortsea - Unaccompanied freight transport

The market for unaccompanied freight transport is booming and for most geographical regions is being characterized by scale increases (larger vessels), a shortage of vessels and a rather old age profile of the fleet. In Scandinavia substantial volumes of paper and forest products from local manufacturers are exported via this way. Another major market for unaccompanied RoRo freight transport is the North Sea. Containers are expected to increase their penetration on the shortsea trade routes. The market between North Europe and the Mediterranean remains a very difficult market for unaccompanied RoRo-transport, due to fierce competition from road transport.

Deepsea - Liner trades with RoRo-facilities

In the past, the deployment of ConRo vessels was very popular on certain liner trades to the Middle East, West Africa, South America and Russia, where facilities to handle ships were rather limited in certain ports. As for today, the ConRo concept has almost completely faded away on the deepsea routes. It does, however, still survive on certain Western African and South American trades.

 

The market for conventional general cargo

The container has been able to swiftly conquer a substantial share of the total general cargo market as demonstrated by an increasing container penetration rate. However, despite the container boom, breakbulk shipping has started flourishing again in recent years due to growing economies in the Far East as well as Brazil, Russia and Southern Africa and the rising demand for oil and gas equipment and building materials. The volume of breakbulk cargo shipped overseas is estimated to be in the region of 400-450 million tons per year. The submarkets in breakbulk shipping include conventional liner-type concepts, barge carriers, container ships, forest products carriers, heavy lift and project carriers, conventional reeferships and RoRo ships.

General cargo ships represented just 10% of the total dwt capacity of the world merchant fleet at mid-2006, whereas this was 12% at the beginning of 2002. The general cargo ship fleet is also of relatively high age.

European seaports handled a total throughput of 253 million tons of conventional general cargo in 2005. The lion’s share of conventional general cargo was handled in ports in Italy, the United Kingdom, Spain, Belgium, the Netherlands, Sweden, Germany, Norway, Finland and France. Antwerp is the market leader with a volume of 17.4 million tons in 2005. Other major conventional general cargo ports include Rotterdam, Taranto, Dunkirk and Valencia. More than 200 ports in Europe handled less than half a million ton of conventional general cargo traffic in 2005. Generally speaking, the handling of conventional general cargo is confronted with ever-tighter handling space in many seaports in Europe (as more and more square metres are consumed by containers) and, given the strong labour intensity, it is also very sensitive to labour-related issues.

 

The liquid bulk market

The seaborne liquid bulk trade amounted to 2.42 billion tons in 2005, of which 77% crude oil and 23% oil products. Loadings and unloadings in Europe amounted to half a billion tons of crude oil and 146 million tons of oil products. The liquid bulk ships represent 40.9% in the world fleet (in dwt), mainly oil tankers. The fleet of liquid gas tankers (LNG and LPG) is swiftly gaining market share.

European seaports handled a total throughput of 1.58 billion tons of liquid bulk traffic in 2005. The lion’s share of this volume was handled in ports in the United Kingdom, Italy, the Netherlands, France and Spain. These five countries accounted for around 1 billion tons of liquid bulk traffic. On an individual port basis, by far the biggest liquid bulk port in Europe is Rotterdam, handling nearly 170 million tons in 2005, mainly thanks to a favourable nautical accessibility and the presence of major petrochemical clusters in Rotterdam and Antwerp. Other major liquid bulk ports include Bergen Ports (Norway), Marseille and Le Havre (France), Wilhelmshaven (Germany), Tees & Hartlepool, Milford Haven, Forth and Southampton (UK), Antwerp (Belgium), and Trieste and Augusta (Italy). No less than 185 ports handled less than 1 million ton of liquid bulk cargo in 2005.

 

The dry bulk market

A world total volume 4.69 billion tons of dry cargo was shipped in 2005. The five major bulks (iron ore, coal, grains, bauxite/alumina and rock phosphate) accounted for 37% of this volume, while minor dry bulks and other dry cargoes (containerized cargo and other general cargo, including RoRo) had a share of 20% and 43% respectively. European seaports handled a total throughput of about 2.6 billion tons of dry bulk traffic. The share of dry bulk ships in the world fleet slightly decreased from 41.4% at the beginning of 2002 to 40.9% at mid-2006. Vessels above 100,000 dwt provide some 33% of the dwt capacity.

European ports handled a total throughput of 977 million tons of dry bulk in 2005. The lion’s share of this volume was handled in ports in the Netherlands, the United Kingdom, Spain, Italy and France. Also here, by far the biggest dry bulk port is Rotterdam, handling nearly 88 million tons of dry bulk traffic in 2005. Other major dry bulk ports include Hamburg (Germany), Antwerp (Belgium), Dunkirk (France), Taranto (Italy) and Amsterdam (Netherlands).

 

Key implications of market developments for European ports

There is no lack of port competition in Europe. Battles are fought on many fronts: maritime and hinterland access, terminal capacity, but above all the accommodation of supply chains. The European port scene is becoming more diverse in terms of number of ports involved and the scope of port functions and services, leading to more routing options to shippers.

Growing concerns on capacity shortages in ports have made supply chain managers base their port choice decisions increasingly on reliability and capacity considerations next to pure cost considerations. To be successful, ports have to think along with the customer, to try to figure out what his needs are, not only in the port, but throughout the supply chains and networks. Port authorities can be a catalyst in this process, even though their direct impact on the routing of cargo flows is limited. Such a catalyst role requires a supply chain focus and an institutional and governance framework that encourages collective actions in the port community.

The growing mismatch between the demand for container shipping services and the supply of terminal capacity continues to be the main reason for observed schedule unreliability in liner services. Port congestion and associated decreasing schedule integrity affect the integrity of entire supply chains. It is therefore a joint responsibility of port managers, policy makers and other stakeholders to foster seaports and the broader networks of which they are part, to look after their well-being and to safeguard their future development potential. It has become crucial to have an institutional and procedural framework in place that is conducive to potential investors.

Against the background of supply chains, competitive forces are shifted to groups of spatially-dispersed but functionally-integrated terminals in different ports. New entrants in the terminal market typically meet the requirements for maritime accessibility and terminal layout. However, they often have to tackle major issues such as securing hinterland services, dealing with stakeholder-related procedures linked to large terminal projects and improving their cargo-generating and cargo-binding potential.

European seaports are competing fiercely to extend their hinterlands across frontiers. This has opened new routing options to shippers and shipping lines and has intensified the battle for contestable cargo. Even regions close to a port are often not captive to that specific port. Container port competition has broadened and altered spatial hierarchy, in the sense that ports in the traditionally dominant Hamburg-Le Havre range are increasingly facing competition from container ports in other European port ranges, primarily for serving hinterland regions in the periphery of the core of the EU. The rise of economic centres in Eastern and Central Europe creates opportunities for all ports to develop short sea shipping services and water- and land-based hub-feeder networks to these areas.

Most ports have achieved a considerable modal shift in hinterland transport, but rail and inland navigation still have not reached their maximum potential. Modal shift policies are implemented throughout Europe and these policies are starting to pay off on some multimodal inland corridors. Hinterland connections of smaller ports and terminals in a start-up phase however remain rather precarious. For the time being, the absence of critical mass complicates a further modal shift in many ports around Europe and impedes the development of new multimodal corridors.

The changing logistics environment poses new challenges in the relations between seaports and inland ports. The development of multimodal corridors enhances the interaction between seaports and inland locations and as such leads to the development of large logistics poles consisting of several logistics zones. This trend towards geographical concentration of distribution platforms in many cases occurs spontaneously as the result of a slow, market-driven process. Supranational, national, regional and/or local authorities have a role to play in facilitating the process towards a further adaptation of the port system to the imperatives of distribution systems.

Finally, port authorities and port companies must demonstrate a high level of environmental performance in order to ensure community support and to attract trading partners and potential investors. A number of ports are lading the way. Their experiences can also help other ports in learning to cope with the present avalanche of environmental challenges.

 

EU policy developments and ESPO activities in 2006/2007

A year of consultation

The period 2006-2007 will no doubt be remembered as one of intensive consultation on the future of both Europe’s policy for ports and for the maritime sector as a whole.

The partial approach of the late port services’ Directive did not only ignore the overall added value of ports for Europe’s trade, economy and welfare, but also overlooked fundamental market developments such as the scale increase of shipping and the growing influence of intermodal carriers and global terminal operators. Not in the least, problems partially created by European legislation itself, such as in the field of the environment, were for a long time considered taboo.

The Commission’s new approach, both in the context of the port policy review and the maritime policy Green Paper, is refreshingly different. It not only provides room for genuine consultation and debate, it also takes a much broader perspective, doing justice to the significant and multifaceted role seaports play in European society.

 

A port policy for all seasons - Ten years after the Kinnock Green Paper

It is in a sense remarkable that ten years after the Green Paper on Sea Ports and Maritime Infrastructure, initiated in 1997 by the then Transport Commissioner Neil Kinnock, a policy for seaports has not materialised yet.

ESPO however believes that seaports cannot do without a sector-specific EU framework. The sector is in many aspects too important for the European Union to leave it governed by the current unclear patchwork of measures or subject to case-by-case initiatives without an overall and coherent policy vision.

Relevant themes for such a policy framework include market access to port services, the role of port authorities, port financing and charging, sustainable port development and the environment, port labour and technical-nautical services, ports and the supply chain, competition with non-EU ports and the public perception of seaports.

Policy however does not automatically mean producing new legislation. A combination of providing guidance, stimulating best practice and reviewing existing law where necessary is the overall course that ESPO has taken in preparing its input for the Commission’s port policy consultation which will be concluded at the ESPO Annual Conference in Algeciras on 31 May-1 June 2007. ESPO hopes that the Commission Communication and Action Plan which are expected to result from the exercise in autumn 2007, will adopt a similar approach.

 

Integrating ports in the supply chain

ESPO very much welcomes the realistic course set by the mid-term review of the Transport Policy White Paper. The mid-term review implicitly recognises that growth in transport is here to stay. It abandons previous theoretical thinking that transport growth can be decoupled from economic growth. ESPO also supports the sensible "co-modality" concept which judges each transport mode upon its own merits and introduces measures to improve the environmental performance of all.

It is most doubtful whether theoretical solutions such as infrastructure "smart" charging can achieve modal shift objectives. The priority is to ensure that existing EU measures in the field of railway transport, inland navigation and Trans-European Transport Networks are enforced so that service levels and infrastructure capacity are improved.

The changing logistics environment introduces new challenges for the relations between seaports and inland ports. ESPO and the European Federation of Inland Ports (EFIP) have underlined the importance of such networks by formalising their co-operation at EU level through a "Platform of European Sea and Inland Ports" which took effect in May 2007.

The Commission’s proposal to establish a Common Maritime Space for Europe is a welcome initiative, provided its sole purpose is to give intra-European shipping the same flexibility in administrative terms as land-based transport modes.

The concept of the Common Maritime Space is closely linked to the development of Motorways of the Sea. Artificially setting up Motorways of the Sea services with European funding however entails the risk that cargo is simply shifted from existing services and ports rather than from roads.

 

Sustainable development of ports - Maritime Green Paper brings new élan

The development of Motorways of the Sea implicitly begs the controversial question whether traffic in Europe should be concentrated on a number of hub ports or should be distributed over a wider set of smaller ports. This question is also raised by the European Commission’s Maritime Policy Green Paper.

ESPO’s answer is very clear: it is not for EU decision-makers to indicate where port development should take place. The bottom-up principle should be fostered whereby project proposals are based on market needs. Local port management is best placed to assess these needs. The present European port system moreover shows a healthy balance between large, medium-sized and small ports, which all have their specific role to play.

ESPO has nevertheless warmly welcomed the Commission’s Green Paper as it is one of the first EU documents that recognises the legal uncertainties that exist with regard to the application of nature conservation legislation, as for instance outlined in ESPO’s new Code of Practice on the Birds and Habitats Directives. Despite proactive behaviour of port managers, seeking win-win solutions with NGOs and other stakeholders, these uncertainties continue to cause substantial delays for many projects, thus contributing to the growing mismatch between demand and supply of port and port-related capacity in European seaports.

The Green Paper introduces maritime spatial planning as a tool to create greater legal certainty for both nature and economic development. ESPO believes there may be added value in this concept for ports provided it is not only based on ecological criteria, refrains from port planning at EU level, avoids overlap with existing planning instruments and simplifies current consent procedures for port development projects and port operations such as dredging.

Another merit of the Green Paper is that it has brought the theme of maritime identity to the forefront. Creating a positive image of the port sector and improving the public acceptance of ports is also one of the prime objectives of ESPO.

 

Maritime safety and security

Pro-active behaviour of port authorities in the field of the environment goes hand in hand with a similar attitude regarding safety of navigation and port operations as well as port security. These are typical public responsibilities of port authorities, regardless of their ownership or management structures.

ESPO has therefore adopted a constructive approach throughout the political discussions on the series of maritime safety packages that have seen the light of day since the Erika and Prestige accidents. ESPO has in particular supported proposals to install an adequate response system to deal with ships in distress seeking a place of refuge. Such a system should however ensure adequate compensation for port authorities in case a ship in distress were to cause local damage, be it of human, environmental or economic nature.

In the field of port security, things have moved from the terminal level to that of the port area as such. By June 2007, Member States have to implement the port security Directive, which introduces ISPS-type measures for the overall port area. Key principle for ESPO is that measures, be they applied to the port perimeter or to specific equipment and installations within a port, should be risk-based. This implies that ports should - at low risk level - remain generally accessible.

With the ISPS Code and the port security Directive firmly in place, ESPO believes that Europe should now fully concentrate its security efforts on other parts of the supply chain.

 

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