TERMINAL operators and inland infrastructure are to blame for port congestion, the said the World Shipping Council (WSC), whose members own 90 per cent of the tonnage afloat.
The WSC said the main causes were labour difficulties, inconsistent terminal productivity, inefficient transport infrastructure linking to road and rail and intermodal network disruption.
Port infrastructure was big problem, said the WSC paper, which cited equipment shortages, hours of operation and little storage space all contributing to disruptions, reported Lloyd's Loading List.
While larger ships have brought greater numbers of containers to ports, ship sizes have been ever increasing. Mega ships have been confined to the Asia-Europe trades, rather than the transpacific, and EU ports have not suffered the same disruptions as seen in the US.
Terminals have been aware for many years that larger ships were entering service, so their arrival should come as no surprise, the WSC said. Major ports have been dredging and acquiring new equipment to serve larger vessels.
The report also pointed out that ultra-large containerships make up less than 10 per cent of the global fleet and most do not call at US ports, while vessels of 12,000 TEU make up only a small percentage of calls in the US.
"Given the competitive nature of the business and constant pressure on rates, carriers will continue to use the most efficient ships available for a given trade lane, meaning that vessels will continue to get larger," the WSC said.
Fuel prices and increasing environmental regulations have imposed higher costs on the industry that can only be addressed through the efficiencies brought about by using larger vessels.
Terminal operators have called for the US Federal Maritime Commission to investigate whether liner schedule reliability and alliance partnerships have been instrumental in causing congestion, but the WSC said there was "absolutely no relationship between vessel size and reliability".
Source : HKSG.