Cosco threatening Hutchison for top spot in ‘premier league’

China’s largest maritime conglomerate, state-backed Cosco, has leapt from fifth spot to bronze in the newly termed ‘premier league’ of global terminal operators. The Chinese giant now stands just 0.6m TEU away from overtaking Hutchison Ports into second place behind Singapore-headquartered PSA International.

UK consultancy Drewry’s just published Global Container Terminal Operators Annual Review and Forecast 2019 shows that following its takeover of OOCL last year, Cosco’s combined terminal throughput for 2018 leapt by a third to 46.1m TEU, while Hutchison had a flat year, throughput declining 0.2% for a full year figure of 46.7m TEU. The equity-adjusted league table for terminal operators’ 2018 throughput has PSA out in front on 60.3m TEU. PSA has a 20% stake in Hutchison Ports.

“Premier league accounting for 40% of global throughput”

“A premier league of seven big operators has emerged, after which the next largest player is a third of the size. Between them they accounted for nearly 40% of global throughput in 2018. Within this elite group, Cosco has moved sharply up the table in this year’s analysis,” said Neil Davidson, author of the report and Drewry’s senior analyst for ports and terminals.

Drewry’s container port demand forecast for the next five years is for global growth of 4.4% per annum on average, lifting world container port throughput from 784m TEU in 2018 to 973m TEU by 2023, an absolute increase of almost 190m TEU.

“A far cry from forecasts of the past”

Several locations are expected to outperform markedly the global average, most notably the Middle East and South Asia.

The latest five-year forecast is a far cry from the heady days of the 2000s when forecasts were around 9% growth per annum until the global financial crisis of 2007-08 brought this to a shuddering halt.