Do or Die - Ports face up to changing trends

Apr 15, 2003
Author: P&S

Ports throughout the world are faced with having to decide whether they should cater for Ultra Large Container Ships (ULCS) that are already too big to enter most ports.

This is one of the topics that are being highlighted at next month’s International Association of Ports & Harbours (IAPH) Conference. The IAPH Conference will be held at the ICC in Durban from May 24 to May 30.

In the past ten years the growth of containerised cargo by sea has grown beyond all expectations and by 2001 was in excess of 245 million TEUs (twenty foot container equivalents). “It is anticipated that global container trade will grow at a rate in excess of 6.6 % per annum and the projected container throughput will reach 360 million TEU by 2007,” says Thomas Falknor, Snr Vice President, International Container Terminal Services Inc. [ICTSI] of Dubai, who is one of the speakers.

The growth in containerised cargo is bringing demands for greater efficiency and cost effectiveness and the answer from the shipping lines is to build ever larger ships. This in turn is creating a new set of challenges for the world’s ports including those in South Africa.

In the past five years maximum container ship size has increased from 4 000TEUs to more than 8 000 TEUs per ship, with even larger vessels capable of carrying 10 000 and 12 000TEUs now on the drawing boards.

However, there are only a handful of ports capable of handling these super ships, and ports that wish to survive in the 21st Century are having to re-design and re-engineer in order to remain viable. For most container ports this has enormous implications in terms of the investment necessary in ensuring that they will continue having a role in their respective region’s economy.

Zia Rizvi, a consulting engineer from Toronto, who will also present a paper on this topic, says the port authority’s dilemma is how to meet these challenges. “In fact for some of the port authorities, it may be a question of ‘Do or Die’ because of heavy competition among themselves,” says Rizvi.

The subject of how to deal with the challenges posed by changing trends is just one of the many topics that will come under discussion at the week-long Durban Conference, which has as its theme ‘Ports – the Catalytic Impact Uniting World Economies through Ports & Harbours.’ More than 650 delegates representing ports from around the world will be attending.

The conference coincides with a massive re-investment programme at several South African ports, including the new port development at Coega, which is aimed at increasing container and other cargo handling capacity and to bring South Africa in line with world trends.

“Hosting the 23rd IAPH World Conference in Durban is of significant importance, not only for the National Ports Authority of South Africa, but also for Africa as a whole,” says Siyabonga Gama, CEO of National Ports Authority and Vice President of the 23rd IAPH World Ports Conference. “This is the first time that the continent of Africa has the privilege to play host to the world leaders from the IAPH, and is the perfect opportunity for us to showcase our port and harbour infrastructure and developments. We have chosen Durban because it is the site of our busiest harbour, and also for its reputation for great hospitality and its facilities.”

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