Seatrade Maritime is part of the Informa Markets Division of Informa PLC

This site is operated by a business or businesses owned by Informa PLC and all copyright resides with them. Informa PLC's registered office is 5 Howick Place, London SW1P 1WG. Registered in England and Wales. Number 8860726.

North Europe container terminals struggling to meet handling demands of mega-boxships

North Europe container terminals struggling to meet handling demands of mega-boxships
Container lines want 6,000 moves a day when handling an ultra-large containership (ULC), while stevedores see 3,500 moves a day as a maximum, according to a report on North European terminals by consultants Dynamar.

North European container terminals have seen a drastic upsizing in vessels calling at their facilities on the trades from Asia. In 2000 the largest containership was the 8,200 teu Cornelius Maersk, 15 years later and nearly 2.5 times as large 19,900 teu Barzan was delivered to UASC.

The first 18,000 teu ULC was only delivered in mid-2013 and there are now 35 on the water, and this number is set to swell to over 100 by 2019.

The report entitled “Container Volumes and Terminal Capacity in North Europe II” commented: “All these ships will invariably be deployed in the North Europe-Far East trade and the amount of ships so big has definitely come as an unpleasant surprise to many of the terminal operators, who generally only hear what hangs over them when the newbuilding order is placed… Yet they realise to have no choice but to quickly invest substantial sums, again, to handle the monsters, without the certainty that carriers will be prepared to pay for the extra effort.”

As the ships have grown so have the demands of the lines for their vessels to be handled quickly and efficiently so that they can truly benefit from the economies of scale, but Dynamar sees a discontent between the demands of lines and the capabilities of the terminal’s handling equipment.

“The consensus among big ship carriers nowadays is that terminals should handle 6,000 moves a day on a ULCs; the universal consent among stevedores is that a production of 3,500 moves is a more realistic maximum,” it said.

Up till 2014 only three out 31 terminals in North Europe was equipped to hand ULCs - Eurogate Container Terminal Wilhelmshaven, Germany; Hutchison in Felixstowe; and ECT’s Euromax Terminal in Rotterdam.

These have since been joined by, the purpose built DP World’s London Gateway, but is not yet handling ULCs, and upgraded or retro-fitted terminals - Southampton Container Terminal, Eurogate and HHLA in Hamburg; APM Terminals in Gothenburg; and Bremerhaven’s Stromkaje.

“All these investments should, but do not necessarily translate into higher stevedoring prices; shipping lines rather pass their economy of scale savings on to shippers in the form of lower freight rates instead,” Dynamar noted.

This year sees three new purpose built facilities coming onstream these are: APM Terminal Rotterdam II at Rotterdam’s Maasvlakte 2, DP World’s Rotterdam World Gateway and Liverpool2 Container Terminal.

The first two are fully-automated and it is this automation that is seen as the “holy grail” to reach the handling rates lines are demanding.

“With remotely-controlled crane automation, APM Terminals expects to make up to 50% more moves per hour, while DP World/RWG anticipates 40 moves an hour,” the report said.

“In both cases, it comes down to some 6,000 moves per day working the ULCS with 6 automated quay cranes. Obviously, the stowage plan must allow for a crane intensity of minimum 6 (or up to 9, if available) quay cranes.”