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Barcelona’s Bragging Rights?

Monday, 13 August 2018 | 16:00

The port of Barcelona may have claimed bragging rights for the best performance in 2017 but Valencia still leads in the container business and has claimed the No. 1 spot from Algeciras.

Container traffic in the port of Barcelona, where Hutchison and APM Terminals operate container terminals, rose by around a third in 2017 to 2.97m teu.

Ask someone in Barcelona what the main reason for this is and they will point to the five new liner services operated by MSC. Ask outside of Barcelona, however, and they will make the point that Barcelona was less impacted by industrial unrest in 2017, associated with the reform of Spain’s port labour practices, and as an upside to this Barcelona was the port where a lot of cargo was diverted to from other ports where serious industrial action took place. This, in turn, leads to the long-held view that port businesses in Barcelona are not prepared to push so hard for labour reforms as their contemporaries elsewhere and as a result they suffer less disruption – but this approach represents a major barrier to port employers presenting a united front and achieving meaningful reforms of port labour practices.

It is true to say that during the recent strikes, APM Terminals considered the needs of its sister company, Maersk Line, to be more important than making a strong stand on industrial issues. Equally, the BEST terminal operated by Hutchison in Barcelona and featuring a high degree of automation, with its lower cost operational set up, is less incentivised to play its part in bringing about labour reforms.

The port of Valencia’s traffic growth in 2017 was modest – just 2.3% rising to 4.78m teu – but it still overtook Algeciras which experienced a 7.9% drop down to 4.39m teu. Valencia, however, has a container terminal project in the pipeline that aims to consolidate and expand its lead in the container sector and a new cruise terminal scheme that aims to enlarge its presence in this sector as well.

Valencia’s major projects

The original idea was to develop a new cruise terminal in the outer harbour area of the port of Valencia but following interest expressed in a new multi-berth container terminal by a leading container line, thinking now is towards developing a new cruise facility in the inner harbour area.

The scale of the proposed fourth container terminal development – an eventual quay line of almost 2 kilometres and capacity to handle 5m containers per annum – necessitates the relocation of the new cruise terminal into the inner harbour at a site between the current terminals of Trasmediterranea and Balearia. It is nevertheless a location which works well from a cruise passenger point of view, being close to the City of Valencia and being part of one distinct zone for cruise and ferry passenger traffic.

The Outer Harbour will actually have to undergo partial reconfiguration to accommodate the planned multi-berth container terminal. To a large extent this is driven by both the increased length of today’s ultra large container vessels – typically around 400 metres – and by the desire for one continuous quay length which will facilitate more efficient operations. A tunnel will provide simplified access to this so-called new North Terminal.

Total spend on these projects will, according to the Port Authority of Valencia, be in the order of €1bn and will surely help to cement the port’s future standing.
Source: Port Strategy

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