Global container port operators continue investment in automation

Global operators look set to continue to lead the way in terms of terminal automation.

According to the latest Global Container Terminal Operators Annual Review and Forecast report published by Drewry, in recent years global operators had already scaled back investment plans, with only limited greenfield projects in the pipeline. However, leading operators look set to continue to lead the way in terms of terminal automation. 

Currently more than three quarters of automated terminals are operated by global and international operators, and of the 22 automated terminal projects currently planned (including both greenfield and brownfield), more than 80% will be delivered by this group of leading operators.

Looking back at 2019 performance, the group of 21 companies classified by Drewry as global/international terminal operators out-performed the market, with combined equity-adjusted volumes growing 4.3% compared to global growth in port throughput of 2.1%. However, this headline figure disguises strongly divergent growth patterns. In 2019 six out of 21 global/international terminal operators reported lower volumes on an equity-adjusted basis.

“Divestment of non-core assets, and the fall-out from the US-China trade war were key factors behind these results,” explained Eleanor Hadland, author of the report and Drewry’s senior analyst for ports and terminals.

Despite global throughput remaining flat year-on-year PSA retained its top spot in Drewry’s rankings. By contrast, Hutchison Ports saw volumes fall by more than 2% and dropped back to fourth place. DP World, with 2019 throughput only marginally above 2018 levels, also dropped a position. China Cosco Shipping and APM Terminals both reported strong growth in volumes, and both moved up the table to take second and third place respectively.

Source: Drewry’s Global Container Terminal Operators Annual Review and Forecast 2020/21
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