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Top 10 box port operators 2018

Cosco Shipping Ports holds onto the top spot in our list this year, as recent acquisitions begin to bear fruit under its asset-building strategy. DP World has climbed our ranking this year on the back of its unconventional Unifeeder takeover, while PSA's digital drive also caught our eye

As part of our annual Lloyd's List Top 100 most influential people in shipping series, we look at the major box port operators with Cosco, DP World and PSA all making their mark

01 / Huang Xiaowen, Cosco Shipping Ports

HUANG Xiaowen is now into the second year of his stewardship at the helm of Cosco Shipping Ports, the world’s largest terminal operator, formed on the merger of the two Chinese conglomerates, Cosco Group and China Shipping Group.

With the financial clout and political influence provided by its Chinese state backers, CS Ports has looked to expand its global presence from the get-go.

A spate of acquisitions over the past few years as part of its steadfast asset-building strategy, including the high-profile takeover of Greek transhipment hub Piraeus and Spanish port operator Noatum, are now starting to bear fruit.

The drive to push volumes through CS Ports’ facilities via the group’s carrier-affiliated arm Cosco Shipping has helped liftings swell further.

For 2018, CS Ports is on track to record volume growth up and above 20% this year to cement its sector dominance.


Eric Ip, Hutchison Port Holdings02 / Eric Ip, Hutchison Port Holdings

HUTCHISON Port Holdings may have lost its crown as the world’s largest box port operator to CS Ports on the Chinese group’s inception, but the Hong Kong-based company’s impressive global portfolio is nothing to be sniffed at.

With its name to more than 50 terminals spanning six continents, HPH is second on the global stage in terms of both total throughput numbers and equity share.

Although expansion has slowed in recent years, allowing others to take centre stage, it has not lain still — slowly boosting capacity at key facilities. This includes Felixstowe, home to the group’s first-ever overseas venture nearly 30 years ago, and Laem Chabang, Thailand, where a new $600m terminal is in the build pipeline.

HPH has come in for a rough ride in 2018, with challenging market conditions impacting volumes at several facilities, particularly domestically.

However, the long-term future for the port pioneer appears much brighter, according to longstanding managing director Eric Ip, as one of the key benefactors of the ‘One Belt, One Road' initiative. HPH has no fewer than 34 ports in 19 countries along the route earmarked under the infrastructural initiative.


Fock Siew Wah, PSA International03 / Fock Siew Wah, PSA International

FOCK Siew Wah has held reign over PSA International for more than a decade, in a period that has seen the Singaporean operator rise as a truly global player.

During his stewardship, PSA International has made its first forays into the Americas, the Middle East and the Mediterranean, while more than doubling its annual handling capacity to its latest full-year count in 2017 of more than 74m teu.

Its crown jewel and flagship operation Singapore is the world’s largest and most successful transhipment hub, and the blueprint for ports adopting the hub-and-spoke formula.

PSA International is renowned for staying ahead of the curve, a point in case when the operator was seen to be readying its berths for the age of ultra large containerships long before many of its rivals.

As the wider industry embarks on its digitalisation journey, PSA has once again looked to lead by example.

Over the past year, partnerships have been forged with third-party vendors in everything from 3D printing to blockchain, while a venture capital arm, unboXed, has been created to facilitate hi-tech start-ups. 


Sultan Ahmed Bin Sulayem, DP World04 / Sultan Ahmed Bin Sulayem, DP World

DP WORLD has never been far away from the headlines over the past year on account of one eye-catching investment — but also a high-profile terminal dispute that is still far from being resolved.

In February, DP World was ousted from its terminal concession in Djibouti after the East African state government ceased the facility, citing that it had failed to meet the obligations set under its concession.

The tit-for-tat dialogue that has ensued has made for ugly viewing. DP World is currently awaiting the outcome of an arbitration process in London to determine where its original shareholder rights stand before planning its next move.

However, it was DP World’s purchase of European shortsea containership operator Unifeeder that really had the industry talking this year. Carriers buying up terminals is nothing new. Terminal operators buying shipping lines certainly is.

DP World chief executive Sultan Ahmed Bin Sulayem has had his hands full, while of course overseeing a global portfolio that, at the time of writing, stood at 78 marine and inland terminals across six continents.

In 2017, DP World handled 70m teu, a rise of 10.1% year on year and, through the first nine months of 2018, the growth trend continued, with throughput numbers climbing by a further 3.7%.


Fu Gangfeng, China Merchant Port Holdings05 Fu Gangfeng, China Merchant Port Holdings

FU GANGFENG was elevated to chairman of China Merchant Holdings in March this year, after his predecessor Li Xiaopeng left the port business to head up Chinese securities broker Everbright Securities.

Mr Fu has big boots to fill. Under the guidance of Mr Li, CM Ports has become a household name on the global box port circuit following a string of strategic acquisitions.

CM Ports has a port portfolio spanning 36 facilities in 18 countries, using the ‘One Belt, One Road’ initiative as a springboard to facilitate growth

In 2017, CM Ports shifted 102.9m teu, a rise of 7.4% over the previous year. Nearly three-quarters of the operator’s box liftings were made in China, but growth came almost exclusively from overseas.

This trend has continued into 2018. Container throughput numbers through the first half of the year grew by 7.3%. CM Ports expects volume momentum to be sustained for the full-year.

Speaking shortly after revealing its half-year result, Mr Fu said its focus is trained on foreign investments as the future growth engine of the company.


Morten Engelstoft, APM Terminals06 / Morten Engelstoft, APM Terminals

MORTEN Engelstoft has been at the helm of Danish conglomerate AP Moller Maersk’s terminal-operating arm APM Terminals for nearly two years. He replaced Kim Fejfer in late-2016.

His tenure may be short compared to his terminal-operating peers, but it has certainly been eventful.

Mr Engelstoft was charged with overseeing APM Terminals' integration into the Maersk group’s wider transport and logistics division. No mean feat.

However, he has also had to contend with an impromptu cyber-attack that caused the complete shutdown of terminal systems last year, costing the Maersk group hundreds of millions of dollars in the process.

Adding insult to injury, this came amid what APM Terminals referred to as “challenging market conditions”, in which several facilities were heavily underutilised.

The response was to divest underperforming terminals, including Zeebrugge, and use its closer ties with Maersk Line and the recently acquired Hamburg Süd to drive traffic.

There are signs the strategy is beginning to pay off, with the Maersk group’s second-quarter financials revealing a significant improvement in terminal utilisation from 68% compared to 77% a year ago. Volumes, too, are on the rise, increasing 7.6% and 10.6% on an equity-weighted and consolidated basis, respectively.


Robert Yildirim, Yilport Holdings07 / Robert Yildirim, Yilport Holdings

ROBERT Yildirim has never been one to hold back in voicing his lofty ambitions for Yilport Holdings, the terminal-operating arm of his shipping conglomerate, Yildirim Group.

The Turkish tycoon has made becoming a top 10 container port operator almost an obsession, as he slowly builds on the group’s global portfolio. Mr Yildirim is inching ever closer. The latest count from Drewry showed the operator climbing to 12th place in the world throughput rankings, despite a relatively quiet 12 months on the acquisition front.

However, you can’t keep Mr Yildirim still for long. Despite a mooted takeover of Ports America falling eerily silent, the group is finally closing in on its first US port investment.

Having eyed opportunities at US ports for several years, Yilport signed a letter of intent with the Mississippi State Port Authority to allow for due diligence and negotiations regarding Gulfport, which is nearing completion of $570m worth of restoration projects.

At the time of writing, Yilport also revealed the 21st port under its operational guise after taking a controlling share in Guatemalan multipurpose facility Puerto Quetzal, as that illusive top 10 throughput ranking edges ever closer.


Chen Xuyuan, Shanghai International Port Group08/ Chen Xuyuan, Shanghai International Port Group

NOT content with being the largest port operator in the largest port in the world, the Shanghai International Ports Group has its sights set firmly on overseas expansion.

Using China’s ‘One Belt, One Road’ drive as a platform, SIPG chairman Chen Xuyuan — who also heads up the Shanghai football club of the same name — has helped oversee the group’s tentative steps on foreign soil.

SIPG has established port partnerships so far in the US, namely Seattle; in Spain’s Barcelona; and in Nagoya, Japan, in addition to partnering with Cosco Shipping Holdings to acquire Hong Kong operator Orient Overseas (International) Ltd.

Despite losing out on OOIL’s Long Beach Container Terminal, which will be sold to a third-party entity under the conditions set for the merger’s approval in the US, SIPG is undeterred from seeking investment opportunities abroad.

The state port giant has made it known it is open to suitable projects that may emerge from Southeast Asia, the Middle East and the Mediterranean, where it is reportedly one of several global players to put its name in the hat for the much sought-after second terminal in Sines, Portugal.


Enrique Razon Jr, International Container Terminal Services Inc09 / Enrique Razon Jr, International Container Terminal Services Inc

ENRIQUE Razon Jr is the Spanish-Filipino billionaire majority owner and chairman of International Container Terminal Services Inc.

Mr Razon Jr inherited the port operator shortly before gaining its first port concession in Manila more than 30 years ago.

Today, Manila is the flagship operation of ICTSI’s global empire of more than 30 terminals and 20 countries, spanning Asia, the Americas, Europe, the Middle East and Africa.

ICTSI’s strategy of investing in emerging markets and preference for a majority terminal shareholding in medium-sized container facilities — those with a capacity in the 1m teu-3m teu size bracket — has proved a successful mantra. The latest ventures include a new terminal in Iraq and two in Papua New Guinea.

A diverse global portfolio helped the group offset a disappointing 2017 at several terminals, posting double-digit revenue gains and a 5% uptick in throughput levels to more than 9m teu. The growth trend is on course to continue through to the end of 2018.


Ammar Kanaan, Terminal Investment Ltd10 / Ammar Kanaan, Terminal Investment Ltd

AMMAR Kanaan was appointed chief executive of Terminal Investment Ltd in April this year, replacing the longstanding Vikram Sharma, who has since retired after nine years in the post.

Over the past decade, Mediterranean Shipping Co’s terminal-operating arm TIL has grown to become a truly global player, having previously served solely as landside support to its affiliate carrier, acquiring capacity and berthing space for the Geneva-based line.

Mr Kanaan brings nearly 30 years’ experience in the transport and port sectors to the table, including his most recent stint leading the development and operations of parent company MSC’s joint venture terminal at King Abdullah Port, Saudi Arabia.

He was also the founder and chairman of terminal operator and service provider International Port Management.


The Top 10 box port operators ranking is based on a combination of influence and scale by the Lloyd's List editorial team, factoring in volume development, new terminal projects and scope for expansion over the coming year.

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