New Report Analyses Port Planning Strategies

Credit: International Transport Forum Credit: International Transport Forum

By MarEx 2018-10-11 20:22:05

A round-table organized by the International Transport Forum examined options for the future development of Buenos Aires specifically and ports located in cities more generally, as                          Buenos Aires and its neighboring ports exemplify the issues faced by many city ports.

A report produced as a result of the 2017 round-table has now been released. It notes                                that Argentina should strategically assess its long-term location options for container ports.                      Argentina currently has an opportunity to redesign its containerized freight transport system,                      because the three concessions for the terminals at the port of Buenos Aires (Puerto Nuevo)                       will expire in 2020.

The report emphasizes that effective port planning requires a thorough understanding of                             the way the needs of shippers are likely to develop in the future. “This sounds self-evident,                         but all too often port planners and policy makers have little knowledge of the main exporters                     and importers using the port and the related cargo flows.”

Port planning has often been mainly a question of timing, when to phase in expansions,                             with projections based on the extrapolation of past trends. This certainty is gone. Some ports                     have already developed long-term planning frameworks that include scenarios in which                       cargo volumes decline.

Conversely, structural reforms can drive a step-change increase in the volume of trade.                           The size of container ships in service is increasing with much more cargo to handle per ship.                     This puts huge stress on equipment and labor, with high idling rates between ship arrivals.                       This increases the need for flexibility in port labor forces and for pooling arrangements                          between terminals.

Larger yard capacity is required to deal with peak traffic and to provide buffer capacity                               in the connection with hinterland transport modes. This requires a lot of space. Terminal                            operators, port authorities and hinterland transport companies have to respond and often                           taxpayers cover the cost. Shipping companies reap benefits from the larger ships but are                          not responsible for many of the associated costs. Consequently, the total supply chain                               costs of larger ships may surpass the cost savings for shipping companies.

Increasing ship size has accelerated the trend for concentration among shipping lines,                           with a combination of horizontal and vertical integration that could lead to a freight transport                     system with very limited choice for shippers. This challenges the regulatory capacity of                             even the largest economies to address potential issues of abuse of market power. Review                       of the legal frameworks that provide antitrust exemption for conferences and alliances                      appears due.

The report states that port planning should involve consideration of a full range of potential                   scenarios for trade and containerization. Uncertainty implies that capacity expansion should                       be designed to be as modular and flexible as possible.

Public policy tends to focus on developing large hub ports, often seeking to expand                          transshipment. A thorough assessment of costs and benefits for transshipment ports                                  is warranted, considering the small transshipment margins and the large costs of                               transshipment ports that are covered, usually, by the public purse. Not all ports                                          can be hubs and feedering is often more efficient. As shipping becomes increasingly                          concentrated around a smaller number of hubs, feedering will become more prevalent worldwide.

With regard to addressing current bottlenecks, the report proposes to stimulate cooperation                  between stakeholders in the maritime logistics chain, as these issues can only be solved through collaboration. Port gate policies, such as truck appointment systems that provide drivers with                    time-slots in which they can deliver and pick up a container, can also help. The effectiveness                    of such systems is increased if it is coupled to measures to increase the visibility of cargo flows,                 for example via port community systems.

The report is available here.




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