Big ship conundrum rumbles on for ports

Peel Ports director highlights the ongoing plight of port operators in handling the box industry behemoths

THE challenge of catering for the needs of big ships remains the pertinent issue for ports, with the huge cost outlays and minimal returns becoming an increasing challenge, according to the container director of a UK terminal operator.

Speaking on the second day of the Global Liner Shipping Conference in Hamburg, Peel Ports’ Jouke Schaap stressed the difficulties ports still faced to consistently operate on and handle increasingly large vessels and the huge peaks in demand.

“It becomes very difficult when deciding how you are going to design your terminal, as there are so many different aspects,” said the former Maersk man.

“What type of crane do you invest in? And you also have to consider the entire cycle time. Do you invest for the long-haul, one that will last for 30, or even 50 years? Do you hope to digitalise these cranes? Are you sure that they will be future proof?”

For Peel Ports, Liverpool’s recently opened second terminal Liverpool2 was designed specifically with ultra large containerships in mind, he explained.

“In some areas we felt it best to adopt ‘low-tech’ operations, but we also invested heavily in semi-automated and fully automated processes within the terminal.”

He added that these were high-risk investments as there was never a guarantee that the big ships would continue to call.

However, to meet the demands of bigger vessels it was necessary to put automated equipment in place.

“You have to lay out all of your infrastructure accordingly and that comes at a price and a huge cost on the terminal side.

“This is the big dilemma, especially for the smaller port players.”

Source: Lloyds List (www.lloydslist.com), 17 May 2017

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