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Aug.21, 2017

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20 THE JOURNAL OF COMMERCE AUGUST 21.2017 TOP 50 CONTAINER PORTS SPECIAL REPORT and excellent infrastructure, Rotterdam is more easily accessible for the largest vessels than other ports," an increasingly bullish authority claims. This is reflected in a near 23 percent surge in transshipment traffic in the first six months of 2017 as an increasing volume of deep-sea containers are being shipped between Rotterdam and smaller European ports. The growth in first-half traffic, a sharp contrast to the miserly 1.2 percent increase in 2016, has boosted Rotterdam's share of the fiercely competitive Le Havre-Ham- burg container market by almost 2 percent to a 15-year high of 30.9 percent from 29 percent a year ago. Antwerp, by contrast, has suddenly slowed down, with traffic edging up 1.9 percent in the first half to almost 5.2 million TEU, ending a long run of strong growth that peaked with last year's 4 per- cent increase, which pushed the Belgian port above 10 million TEU for the first time. Antwerp's pursuit of Rotterdam — highlighted by a 7.5 percent increase traffic in 2015 compared with a 0.5 per - cent decline at its Dutch rival — may have slowed, but its port authority remains optimistic. "In 2016, Antwerp was one of the few ports in the Le Havre-Hamburg range to achieve growth figures. If after that we can once more produce a positive report, then we have every reason for sat- isfaction," Port Authority CEO Jacques Vandermeiren said on the publication of the first-half figures. And Vandermeiren isn't worried about failing to grow traffic, but keeping pace with it. "We have to look ahead ... these volumes also demonstrate the needs for additional container capacity ... we will do everything necessary to give the port companies the oxygen that they need in order to prosper." And while Antwerp has slipped fur- ther behind Rotterdam, it has widened the lead over Hamburg, which it ousted as Europe's second-largest container hub a few years ago after the German port's growth slowed and then declined. Hamburg is still struggling to keep up with its rivals, but a 0.7 percent decline in the first quarter of 2017 to 2.2 million TEU, following a modest 1 percent rise in 2016 volume to 8.9 million TEU, consolidates its "rebound" from a 9.3 percent slump in 2015. Germany's top container hub still has some way to go to overtake its record traf- fic of 9.7 million TEU in 2014, but there's growing confidence that it can return to growth in the medium term and win back "local" traffic lost to its top competitors. The big boost came in February when a German federal court gave Hamburg con- ditional approval to deepen the rival Elbe, its 38-mile navigation channel to the North Sea, which will enable 24/7 passage of the largest fully laden container ships that it can currently only handle at high tides. While the court ruled that Hamburg must address several environmental issues before it can start dredging, it was a major breakthrough for the port, which first sought planning permission around 15 years ago and has lost several court challenges by green activists. Hamburg will get an earlier boost from the German government's recent decision to halve payments for the use of the coun- try's rail network. The port's rail traffic hit a record 2.4 million TEU in 2016, account- ing for a record 42.3 percent of its hinterland shipments, and is sure to grow further in the coming months, evidenced by Rotterdam's gripe over the Berlin's government's "finan- cial" support to Hamburg. "In comparison with ports in Europe, the highest number of connections and the great frequency of train departures to and from Hamburg are very advanta- geous in offering shippers in industry and commerce rapid handling of their export and import cargoes," said Ingo Egloff, joint CEO of Port of Hamburg Marketing. There are concerns among the UK ports. The country will leave the European Union, and most likely its single market and customs union, in March 2019 after 46 years as a member. UK ports, roll-on, roll-off car- riers, feeder container carriers, and truckers are worried about the impact. The biggest potential Brexit "victim" is the port of Dover, one of the world's top ro-ro hubs, which handled more than 2.6 million trucks transporting goods worth around £117 billion ($154 billion), or THERE IS A "REAL RISK" OF OVERWHELMING CONGESTION IF THE UK QUITS THE EU'S CUSTOMS UNION AND RETURNS TO THE PRE-SINGLE MARKET ERA.

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