Drewry said terminal operators face challenges because of growing container traffic and growth in ship sizes.
The London-based consultant, which has just published its Annual Review of Global Container Operators
, noted by 2017 it expects container terminals globally will handle 800 million TEUs per year, 186 million TEUs more than currently.
The 5 percent annual growth the industry will see over the next few years is not as strong as that in the boom periods of the 1990s and 2000s, but Drewry observed "even modest demand growth now generates huge absolute increases in volumes."
"To put this growth into context, the 186 million TEUs which this growth represents is the equivalent of the entire throughput of all Chinese ports in 2012. Or to put it another way, it is more than the entire 2012 throughput of North America, Europe and the Middle East combined," it explained.
Drewry's senior analyst Neil Davidson said individual ports such as Shanghai or Singapore will add almost 10 million TEUs to their total
throughput by 2017, "more than the entire
container port throughput of the U.K., India or Brazil."
Drewry said while the growing size of containerships and larger alliances such as the proposed P3 network between Maersk, Mediterranean Shipping Co. and CMA CGM will be a challenge, "the resultant rampant and rapid cascading of larger ships into secondary trade lanes is likely to create more port problems and challenges than the 18,000-TEU monsters destined for the Asia-Europe trade lane."
Davidson predicts changes in terminal ownership "as cash-strapped shipping lines are forced to sell more stakes in their terminals, and aggressive terminal buyers chase expansion opportunities." - Chris Dupin