Box ports clear congestion as demand falls
Falling demand for containerized goods has positively impacted container ports as congestion has declined, and fewer vessel calls have improved productivity. The latest World Ports Tracker Report from the International Association of Ports and Harbors (IAPH) “confirms the end of the global supply chain crunch,” with the last quarter’s average call sizes dropped in all port regions compared with the third quarter of 2022. IAPH said the biggest falls were in North America, Latin America, and northern Europe.
Weak inbound demand for containers in Europe leads to a build-up of empty equipment that threatens to increase congestion at terminals and storage yards. Figures from Containers xChange suggest that container overcapacity in Europe amounts to between 3 million to 5 million TEU, putting downward pressure on container prices and leasing rates and causing storage problems. A further threat to increased congestion came from renewed industrial action in Germany and France that threatened to slow the removal of containers from Europe.
Shippers benefit from the downturn in the container shipping sector but still face challenges, according to the latest Container Shipping Market Quarterly Review from the Global Shippers’ Forum and MDS Transmodal. While the dramatic fall in spot rates over the past nine months, which had seen rates on many routes slip back to pre-Covid levels, had benefited shippers, weaker demand for their products would be of more concern to shippers than the cost of their shipment, the report said.
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APM Terminals to develop container terminals in Haiphong and Rotterdam
APM Terminals has partnered with Vietnam’s Hateco Group to develop a two-berth container terminal at Lach Huyen, Haiphong’s deep-sea port in northern Vietnam. The project is expected to cost more than $355 million. The complex would be operational in early 2025 and expand the capacity of Haiphong port by about 18 percent, from about 6 million to 7.1 million TEU, allowing it to handle ships up to 18,000 TEU.
In the meantime, on 31 March, APM Terminals and the Port of Rotterdam said they are investing over $1 billion to nearly double the handling capacity of the Maasvlakte II container terminal by adding more berth and yard space to the fully automated facility. The project involves developing a new site of approximately 47.5 hectares (116 acres) with 1,000 meters (3,280 feet) of additional berth space. Maasvlakte II currently encompasses about 212 acres and 3,200 feet of berth space. The expansion will increase the terminal’s capacity by approximately 2 million TEU from its current capacity of 2.7 million TEU. The new capacity is expected to be operational in the second half of 2026, APM said in the statement.
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Cosco Shipping Ports bets on China to drive throughput growth
Cosco Shipping Ports is counting on solid Chinese trade to reverse its throughput decline in 2023 amid an improved yet fragile world economic outlook. A drop of over 6% in total handling volume in January-February has made the weakest start for the port giant in recent years following a flat year in 2022, raising concerns about prospects for the company and the market in which it operates. However, the company is confident that the situation will get better. According to deputy managing director Kelvin Wong, China’s exports and imports are estimated to grow by 3%-4% this year. He added that his company forecasts an “even stronger” domestic trade backed by China’s dual circulation policy, which involves tapping the country’s prodigious domestic market of 1.4 billion consumers. The view echoes the prevailing optimism arising from the country’s reopening from draconian lockdowns and a V-shape rebound of its economy.
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Sustainable biofuels and hydrogen can help shipping cut emissions, says IPCC
According to the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report summary, sustainable biofuels, low-emissions hydrogen, and derivatives, including ammonia and synthetic fuels, can support the mitigation of CO2 emissions from hard-to-abate industries such as shipping, aviation, and heavy-duty land transport. It noted the need for effective production process improvements and cost reductions. In addition, net zero CO2 energy systems entail a substantial reduction in fossil fuel use, minimal use of unabated fossil fuels, and use of carbon capture and storage in the remaining fossil fuel systems.
On the other hand, Columbia Shipmanagement chief executive Mr. O’Neill said at a Capital Link forum in New York that we need to discuss carbon capture, reduction, and better optimization rather than net zero and carbon neutral. He also said shipping’s decarbonization narrative must change “massively” as fossil fuels will likely remain dominant in the following decades, and completely replacing them is unrealistic. Moreover, he questioned whether a zero-carbon future is possible given shipping’s “peripatetic and fragmented” nature, adding that current geopolitical realities further complicate any progress on the energy transition.
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Europe agrees to ‘ground-breaking’ shipping decarbonization deal
European legislators agreed on 23 March to an ambitious deal on cutting shipping emissions and accelerating the switch to green maritime fuels, with 80 percent of emissions to be cut by 2050. European Parliament rapporteur Jörgen Warborn described the agreement as “the world’s most ambitious path to maritime decarbonization.” The provisional agreement between the European Parliament and European Council negotiators sets out a fuel standard for ships that steadily increases the use of renewable and low-carbon fuels to lower emissions. Ships will have to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) gradually emissions by cutting the amount of GHG in the energy they use by 2 percent as of 2025, 6 percent by 2030, 14.5 percent by 2035, 31 percent by 2040, 62 percent by 2045, and by 80 percent by 2050. The rule will apply to ships above 5,000 gross tons and to all energy used on board in or between EU ports and 50 percent of the energy used on international voyages that start or end in the EU.
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Maersk agrees green methanol bunkering deal with SIPG
Maersk and Shanghai International Port Group (SIPG) have signed a partnership deal for a green methanol marine fuel project in Shanghai. The parties will explore green methanol fuel vessel-to-vessel bunkering operations from 2024, the Danish shipping and logistics group said in a statement. Under the two-stage cooperation, SIPG will first provide vessel-to-vessel bunkering and fuel tank storage services at the port. The two parties will then explore forming a comprehensive energy strategic partnership to extend the collaboration to the upstream green methanol industry chain.
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Business as usual is “not an option” on shipping’s path to decarbonization
Shipping must change the way it operates if it is to make progress on decarbonization, and collaboration across the industry will be critical for it to succeed. The coming year will be defining for shipping’s decarbonization journey, and the industry can no longer go about its business as usual, according to shipowner group BIMCO. BIMCO’s head of Americas, Mr. Thomas Damsgaard, called on shipowners and charterers to “fundamentally change” their relationships and deepen their collaboration so the regulation can achieve its goal of helping the industry reduce its carbon emissions. “The usual way of working together is not an option. It’s not an easy task,” he said, adding that without collaboration across the maritime industry, no progress would be made, and goals would be misaligned.
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Terminal operators and Cosco join Saudi chemical shipper in eBL deal
At the ICC Future Trade Forum in Singapore, a Saudi Arabia-based chemical shipper, Saudi Basic Industries Corporation (SABIC), Cosco Shipping Lines, Hutchison Ports, PSA International, and the Global Shipping Business Network (GSBN) signed a memorandum of understanding to use electronic bills of lading (eBLs) for shipments moving through their container terminals in Asia. SABIC manufactures chemicals, commodity and high-performance plastics, agri-nutrients, and metals. The companies said data from eBLs issued via GSBN’s infrastructure would also be used to electronically release SABIC cargo at Hutchison and PSA terminals in Asia, linking another GSBN initiative to the eBL.
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