Hong Kong: Dr Jonathan Beard is one of the best known names in ports analysis. Managing director of GHK, a firm bought out recently by US firm ICF, Beard’s pronouncements on ports in Asia in particular always tend to ring true. Maritime CEO quizzes him about key trends to note across Asian boxports.
In Southeast Asia Beard sees “intense competition” for transhipment volumes, something that is only set to grow.
“Increasingly it is a very tough game,” he comments. “These ports have to invest a lot but revenues per teu are not going up.”
In China, the going is getting “really tough” in the south. Hong Kong will continue to struggle, he says, while overcapacity in south China is not helped by Nansha, a comparatively new giant port 54km south of Guangzhou. Beard describes Nansha as “a state-backed entity essentially buying cargoes”.
The Yangtze river delta is “pretty healthy”, reckons Beard, with Shanghai’s new free trade zone likely to be an “extra fillip”.
The northern Bohai Rim ports have enjoyed a very strong year, something likely to continue next year. Despite this, however, neighbouring Busan, in Korea, continues to post solid results. Busan’s resilience does surprise the ports analyst, but he questions the profitability of business in Busan.
Over in Taiwan, meanwhile, the picture is not rosy. With China sooner or later likely to open up transhipment to foreign carriers, Taiwan’s ports need to focus on domestic consumption.
Finally, we ask for Beard’s advice for container terminal operators in 2014: “Focus on Africa and Russia,” he says. [21/10/13]