Ports & Terminals

Mega-ships breathe new life into Pacific trans-shipment

The age of Mega-ships has owners realizing new potential for positioning cargo. These vessels will create exceptional opportunities and unique challenges in discharging and distributing Trans-load containers. On the West Coast of the Americas, terminals are planning the next round of distribution for Hub and Spoke services. Bigger is Better As a vessel operator your goal is to get as many containers to destination with as few ships as possible. This holds true when positioning cargo for trans-shipment. Pacific ports such as Manzanillo and Lazaro Cardenas in Mexico, Balboa in Panama, and Callao Peru have served as jump off points for containers destined from San Salvador to Santiago. What has changed is the size of the vessels, which can now deliver containers to these intermediary ports. Trans-loading in the Pacific: Traditionally Manzanillo with its 2.4 million TEU capacity was the port of choice for feeder service to Central America. In 2015 the port launched a $5.25 billion expansion project, which included four Neo-Max cranes at Atlantic Coast Terminals and dredging to handle the largest vessels headed for the Panama Canal. The project will add two new docks and six additional container yards increasing the ports capacity to 4 million TEU. All this in preparation of the larger ships! Within the last 12 years Lazaro Cardenas has begun to overshadow Manzanillo because of its direct rail connection to the US. The Texas Mexican Railway a subsidiary of the Kansas City Southern is capable of offering direct service from the port to a 10 state area in the south and central United States. In 2015 APM Terminals signed a 32-year lease to build and manage TEC2 the most technologically advanced terminal in Latin America. Phase One will feature 2,460 feet of quay and seven state of the art STS cranes capable of reaching 24 containers across the ships’ beam. The facility will incorporate a fully automated gate system and the largest on dock intermodal yard in the region. The Mexican government plans to double Lazaro’s 1.02 million TEU capacity within the next 6 years.
Callao is Peru’s Largest port and a hub for the redistribution of containers in South America. APMT assumed control of North Terminal in July of 2011 with ambitions of building a mega facility for the increased cargo to come. Begun in 2013 the $3.7 million expansion project now in its second phase of construction has seen the introduction of four Super Panamax Cranes with an outreach of 23 containers and an addition of 12 electric RTG container handlers. APM is gearing up for the first round of Neo-Panamax ships, hoping to attract additional trans-loads from vessels on their way to the canal. The Panama Canal Authority (PCA) announced this summer it has chosen the final four bidders for the new Corozal Container Terminal in the Port of Balboa. Strategically located at the western edge of the Canal, Balboa will seek to capture the lion’s share of Pacific trans-loading. The final four bidders include; APM Terminals, Terminal Link, Terminal Investments Ltd. and PSA International. Built on land owned by the PCA the selected operator would maintain and operate the facility on a 20-year lease from the authority. Phase One would see the completion of 4,429 linear feet of quay with 163 acres of backland. Phase Two would build out an additional 2,389 feet of wharf and 138 acres of container yard. By comparison the world’s largest container ships are 19,000 + TEUs with LOA (Length Over All) is between 1,297ft and 1,311ft. That means the completed terminal could easily handle five to six of the world’s largest ships at one time. When completed Corozal’s total annual throughput is pegged at 5.3 million TEUs. This facility’s sole purpose is to marshall trans-loaded cargo, when carriers look at the size and the geographic position of potential terminals, Corozal is playing for keeps! Mega Size, Mega Trans-load With Pacific ports vying for a greater share of the trans-load market, it’s a sure bet owners will consider putting larger vessels into Latin America. The trade off is whether to place mega-ships with top-end capacity or scale back to Neo-Panamax vessels, which could discharge say a third of their volume then transit the canal for a greater port range. As a measure of size let’s call VLCS (Very Large Container Ships) as those between 12,500 TEUs and 15,000 TEUs and ULCS (Ultra Large Container Ships) at 16,000 TEUs and above. Speculating for a moment, owners could consider utilizing ULCSs to serve deepwater Latin ports for regional cargo and trans-load boxes now that terminals in that range are coming up to spec to handle these monsters. Trans-loading to 8,500’s for Hub and Spoke connections to smaller regional ports is not out of the question. Neo Panamax vessels could also maximize their stowage by swapping out boxes by regional destinations before entering the canal. If operating costs match efficiency the above scenario is not out of the question. So Latin America is growing Mega Terminals for the trans-load market! What will the Latin Trade hold for these facilities in the near future?
Matt Guasco
Matt Guasco


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