Planning Delays Add to Port Congestion

Speaking to the TOC Europe Conference in Antwerp, David Appleton, president Neptune Orient line Europe, highlighted research conducted with Drewry Shipping Consultants indicating financial and time costs are adding up due to planning delays for port expansion at 12 northern European ports. Similar issues face U.S. ports, according to Appleton.

In one example of 12 port projects scheduled for the European ports studied, two had proposed dates of 2000. One of those projects would not be completed before 2007, and the other will never be completed, according to the Drewry research. A Rotterdam project proposed for 2002 isn’t expected before 2012. Total project costs were estimated at €6.081 billion and were supposed to add 11.4 million TEUs of capacity by 2005.

Demand for European port capacity, which stands below 35 million TEUs in 2005, is expected to rise to nearly 50 million TEUs by 2010. Capacity utilization, currently at a projected 86.7% for 2005, is expected to reach 89.2% in that same period, based on increases in both demand and capacity.

The situation in the U.S. looks much worse. According to Modern Terminals Limited, capacity utilization in the Pacific Northwest will reach 105.4% by 2010 based on projected demand growth and planned capacity increases. The Pacific Southwest will be at 106.0% utilization, the North Atlantic at 117.5%, and the South Atlantic/Gulf ports at 109.0%.

“Many of the costs of congestion [could be] diminished or eliminated if we had a more efficient planning process,” said Appleton. It is absolutely necessary that a planning process be thorough and involve all stakeholders, including the community, and he said there is an urgent need for the container industry, including both maritime and land-based carriers, as well as importers, exporters and related service providers, to shoulder more of the responsibility in making the case for additional container handling capacity.

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