The alliance and merger trend among container carriers has not only reshaped the maritime transport landscape, but is now also redefining port choices based on completely new parameters, as the most recent Ports and Terminals Insight report published by global shipping consultancy Drewry shows.
In what Drewry calls “a ground-breaking analysis”, the consultancy firm examined the correlation between carrier terminal ownership and the choice of port calls by the 2M and upcoming Ocean and THE liner alliances, with results showing that the choice of port call is often not in line with carrier terminal ownership interests.
An unexpected trend
The results point to a trend that “even when a shipping line has a significant stake in a terminal, this doesn’t necessarily mean that the port is selected for the network Schedule”. Other parameters are considered relevant for this decision, such as their access to gateway or transhipment markets.
These parameters become more relevant to carriers since they are significant business hubs that drive maritime transport, which is right now way more important than prioritizing ownership reasons for port calls.
Drewry analyzed the relationship between i) the extent of interests in terminals that carriers have in ports in a selection of gateway and transshipment port markets, and ii) the ports of call in these markets, as selected by the three major alliances that will be in place from second-quarter 2017. Gateway markets included Benelux ports, the Pacific South West and South China/Hong Kong, while markets covered hubs in Southeast Asia, the Mediterranean, Middle East and Central America/Caribbean.
“What this analysis shows is that individual lines are not entirely in control of their own destinies when it comes to port choices, as partner lines in their alliances may have conflicting port choice preferences and particular idiosyncrasies,” said Neil Davidson, senior analyst for ports and terminals for Drewry.
We knew an alliance-driven market would surprise us with a new dynamic, but apparently, the priority now focuses on surviving a depressed market. There will come a later time when protecting business areas will become relevant again, but for now its survival of the fittest.
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