Planned Port Capacity Will Be Sufficient in Most of the World | Global Trade Magazine
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  June 3rd, 2016 | Written by

Planned Port Capacity Will Be Sufficient in Most of the World

But A Few Regions Will Feel Squeeze Handling Future Trade Growth, Says OECD Report

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  • Only southern Asia needs to expand capacity beyond what planned or projected capacities are showing.
  • More complex international freight flows will change capacity requirements over the coming decades.
  • The North Pacific route will become the world’s busiest trade route by 2050.

The capacity improvements currently planned in seaports around the world will be “sufficient enough” to accommodate future trade growth to 2030.

That is, perhaps, not a stellar endorsement of current capacity planning from the International Transport Forum of the OECD, but a grade of B- or C+ is better than an F.

“Our projections show that only southern Asia needs to expand capacity beyond what planned or projected capacities are showing,” said the recently-released ITF report.

The International Transport Forum at the OECD is an intergovernmental organization with 57 member

countries that acts as a think tank for transportation policy.

This ITF report examines the consequences of increased global trade on the world’s transport infrastructure. More complex international freight flows and diversified global trade patterns will change capacity requirements over the coming decades, making the ITF’s assessment of “sufficient enough” appear all the more impressive.

“The geographical composition of freight will change significantly between now and 2050,” the report noted. Trade in developing countries will grow 150 percent faster than in developed economies.

As a result the North Pacific route will become the world’s busiest trade route by 2050, with significant growth also taking place in the Indian Ocean, the Mediterranean, and the Caspian Sea. Intra-Asia trade volumes will multiply by nearly seven times between 2010 and 2050, according to the report.

Inaland connections will face the largest capacity challenges, the report said, expecially in Asia and Africa, the regions where traffic growth is projected to be highest.

“The need to expand capacity is particularly large for infrastructure close to ports or main consumption and production centers,” said the report. “This specific infrastructure will need to almost triple in Asia and Africa by 2050 to provide the performance levels seen in 2010.”

The report recommends that port expansions be planned in phases “as a way to smooth the lumpiness of new port infrastructure investment.” Strategic plans should look forward several decades and prioritize investments and identify future bottlenecks. Those plans would form the basis for land acquisitions for future port development.

Port capacity can be increased by optimizing existing terminals. Streamlining operations, staying open 24 hours a day, and improved coordination between carriers and terminals could all have the effect of maximizing capacity. “Equipment upgrades,” the report noted, “could also speed up ship-to-shore operations and increase capacity without building new terminals.”

“Capacity can be improved by focusing on the efficiency of the whole supply chain,” the report recommended. Covered under that large umbrella are projects such as implementing truck appointment systems, intermodal transportation options, and efficient information exchange.

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