Drewry forecasts global container port volumes at 973m TEU

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Global container port demand is forecast to rise for the next five years with box throughput reaching 973 million TEU by 2023, though capacity expansion plans are likely to be muted, according to a latest analysis by Drewry.

The consultant has projected a global growth of 4.4% a year on average for the next five years in container port demand, lifting the world’s container port throughput from 784 million TEU in 2018 to 973 million TEU by 2023.

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, Drewry noted.

Global container port capacity, on the other hand, is expected to increase approximately 2% a year, 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.

Consequently, average utilisation on a global level is forecast to increase from 70% in 2018 to 79% by 2023.

The sharpest upward swings on utilisation level is expected in Greater China and Southeast Asia, with the former hitting 100% by 2023.

“The previous very rapid pace of capacity expansion is on hold, with the focus instead being on consolidation of port and terminal ownership into large groups. This, plus the uncertainty about China’s international trade growth in the face of tariff wars and protectionism, suggests that the government is taking a cautious approach,” said Neil Davidson, Drewry’s senior analyst for ports and terminals.

At present, the world’s top seven terminal operators are PSA International, Hutchison Ports, China Cosco Shipping, DP World, APM Terminals, China Merchants Ports, and Terminal Investment Limited (TIL). They accounted for nearly 40% of global throughput in 2018.