By Theo Notteboom
Are container port volumes in Europe above pre-crisis levels? The answer is yes, says PortEconomics co-director Theo Notteboom.
In 2014, the European container port system handled about 12% more containers than in 2007. So if you thought that the economic crisis left all European container ports with heavy traffic losses, then think again. In recent years, Europe has welcomed a number of fast rising stars such as Gdansk, Piraeus and Sines, all ports which particularly benefited from transhipment induced growth. The listed ports in the table all recorded healthy growth figures compared to the pre-crisis year 2007.
In fact, half of the somewhat 80 container ports in Europe recorded traffic gains in the period 2007-2014. Thirty three ports even managed to get a container volume growth of at least 10% compared to the 2007 level. However, the 2014 container volumes of half of the European ports were still below the 2007 figure. The list of heavy traffic losers includes some bigger ports such as Gioia Tauro, Barcelona, Constantza and Thamesport, reflecting the ever-changing configuration of liner shipping networks. Even the 2014 container throughput of Hamburg, Europe’s second largest container port, was 1.6% below the 2007 figure. The container business in the Elbe port was hit hard in 2009 (i.e. minus 28% compared to 2008), partly due to the competitive dynamics surrounding the somewhat footloose (Baltic) transhipment business.