|October 24th, 2005, 05:42 AM||#1|
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European Container Ports Avoid Peak-Season Delays
No peak congestion for Europe ports
BY BRUCE BARNARD
21 October 2005
Journal of Commerce Online
LONDON -- Europe's top container ports have avoided a repeat of last year's peak-season delays, despite surging imports from China and other Asian nations that have boosted container traffic by as much as 15 percent.
Last year, scores of ships were forced to wait for berths as containers piled up on the docks. There were fears that would be repeated this year.
But the largest northwest European ports have avoided a repeat of 2004's problems by investing heavily in new equipment, hiring extra longshoremen, changing working practices and improving planning procedures.
These measures helped ports to overcome a potential crisis that surfaced in August, when millions of garments from China were stranded in warehouses because they had exceeded their European Union import quotas.
While the ports have survived the current peak season, analysts say congestion will remain a threat without major investments in new terminals to keep pace with strong growth in container traffic for the remainder of the decade. Drewry Shipping Consultants in London says that while ocean container traffic likely will grow by an average of 9 percent a year between 2004 and 2010, planned terminal capacity will rise by only 5 percent.
ECT, the main Rotterdam terminal operator, was severely affected by congestion last year as it struggled to cope with a 24 percent rise in traffic. This year, ETC is handling vessels on schedule. A $325 million investment in new equipment and the recruitment of 250 workers have enabled the terminal operator, a unit of Hong Kong's Hutchison Ports, to handle volumes that were up 16 percent in the first half of this year and have continued strong.
Southampton, the UK port hardest hit by congestion a year ago, has avoided a jam-up this year by investing in new equipment, hiring extra labor and expanding its container-stacking area by 25 percent. The biggest contributor to the smoother operation is a mandatory truck booking system introduced in June. The system, the first in the UK which also fines late arrivals, has dramatically cut truck turnaround time, by more than a half in some weeks.
The Port of Antwerp opened a new terminal with annual capacity of 1.4 million TEUs. The terminal, the only large one added this year in northern Europe, will relieve pressure on Antwerp, which last year was turning away up to 10,000 boxes a week to Rotterdam because of lack of space. The new terminal is outside the river port's lock system and can accommodate vessels of up to 9,000 TEUs.
The decision by the Grand Alliance to route two Asia-Europe services to an empty terminal in Amsterdam has helped Rotterdam by drawing off up to 150,000 TEUs of annual traffic.