Ports must adapt to change

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The inability of ports in Europe, the US and elsewhere to keep pace with the relentless growth in Asian, especially China’s, shipping facilities and overseas trade is already leading to increased personal injury and handling equipment incidents, the TT Club has warned. The specialist transport insurer, which provides property and liability cover for over 2,000 port and terminal facilities worldwide, fears an ever-growing number of accidents, some fatal, that will blight Western waterfronts unless ports can adapt to unprecedented change.

TT Club’s chief executive Paul Neagle told delegates at Containerisation International’s Global Liner Shipping Conference last month that, according to a recent International Herald Tribune report, China alone has 639 new deep water berths on the drawing board that will become operational by 2010. In 2006, Chinese exports grew by 27 per cent in volume terms, eclipsing the 20 per cent growth in imports. Logically, he said, this should lead to comparable growth in other regions to handle the additional post-Panamax generation of ships that are being ordered to service soaring Chinese exports and imports.

“However, unlike in China,” observed Mr Neagle, “in Europe, the United States and Australasia there are a large number of constraints on expansion of port facilities. We have already witnessed examples of this around the world,” he said, referring to issues such as congestion, planning permission, dredging and waste disposal that have sunk or stalled proposed expansion plans across the world’s consumer economies.

The club predicts that, as long as port and terminal operators are unable to find ways to overcome expansion difficulties, there will be growing pressure on terminals and their working practices as they struggle to handle volumes that are increasing by 10 per cent or more a year.

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