By Theo Notteboom
The table shows the top 15 container ports in the European Union in 2016 based on container throughput expressed in TEU and the year-on-year growth in H1 2017 (for some ports Q1 2017). No figures were available for Marsaxlokk.
What do the figures reveal?
With an overall growth figure of 3.7%, the top 15 ports are performing much better than in 2016
First, with an overall growth figure of 3.7%, the top 15 ports are performing much better than in 2016 (+2.1%) and 2015 (-1.6%). The top three recorded a growth of 4.3% in H1 2017 compared to 2% in 2016 and -1% in 2015.
The two largest container ports in South Europe saw a traffic decline in H1 2017, other top ranked ports in the region show healthy growth
Second, while the two largest container ports in South Europe saw a traffic decline in H1 2017, other top ranked ports in the region show healthy growth. Sines in Portugal continues to strengthen its position in the European container port system with an impressive 34% growth in H1 2017. Barcelona was hit very hard in 2009 and in the past years had difficulties in regaining growth. However, the year 2017 seems to bring a trend break in the Catalonian port with an impressive 28.6% volume rise in H1. Also Genoa presents impressive growth figures, while Greek hub port Piraeus shows more moderate growth after a very steep volume rise in the past few years.
Growth figures in north European ports are mixed
Third, growth figures in north European ports are mixed. Europe’s largest container port Rotterdam outperformed rivals with an impressive 9.3% TEU growth in H1 2017. Also Le Havre can look back at a strong first half year. Antwerp, a strong performer in 2015 and 2016 (i.e. +7.5% and +4% respectively), recorded a more modest 1.9% increase in the first half of this year. Hamburg’s container throughput stagnated, while neighbouring Bremerhaven handled 4.9% less TEU in H1 2017.
The large differences in growth figures among individual ports are not only caused by differences in the economic situation of the hinterland regions served. The dynamics in the routing decisions of the large shipping alliances (2M, THE Alliance and Ocean Alliance) are having their full impact on the (larger) container ports, while port loyalty in the sea-sea transhipment market remains a loose concept.