Russia and Eastern Europe are the only bright spots in an “otherwise gloomy” outlook for Europe’s container market, according to APM Terminals.
Eastern Europe is predicted to be the world’s fastest growing container market in 2013, while Russia has plenty of potential to increase the current low volumes through its terminals, said Ben Vee, CEO of APM Terminals Europe region.
Eastern European container traffic is set to grow by 7.3 percent in 2013, according to the most recent forecasts, Vee told the TOC Container Supply Chain conference in Rotterdam.
This compares with a projected 6.7 percent growth in the Middle East and 6.1 percent in South East Asia.
By contrast, volume at north European ports likely will increase by just 0.8 per cent in 2013, compared with global growth of 6 to 7 percent.
“Russia is the largest country in the world in terms of area, ninth by population and sixth globally in terms of national GDP, but Russian ports handled less than 5 million 20-foot equivalent units last year,” Vee said.
Saint Petersburg, Russia’s largest container hub, is in the bottom half of the world’s top 100 box ports, with annual traffic of less than 3 million TEUs.
This is sure to change following Russia’s accession to the World Trade Organization, Vee said.
APM Terminals, the port arm of Denmark’s A.P. Moller-Maersk, moved into Russia last year, paying around $860 million for a 37.5 per cent stake in Global Ports, the nation’s largest port operator.
Vee said European terminals’ success will crucially depend on their ability to dramatically increase berth and crane productivity to handle the new generation of 18,000-TEU ships entering the Far East-Europe trade lane.
Ship-owners have ordered 106 ships with capacities of more than 10,000 TEUs to date, accounting for a quarter of all container vessels and half the capacity on order.
But terminal productivity has not kept pace, and the need for solutions for the timely working of the new vessels has become more urgent, as Maersk Line’s Triple E vessels enter service this year, and China Container Shipping Line recently ordered 18,400-TEU vessels.