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Top 10 box port operators 2023

MSC and CMA CGM join the port operator elite in a wider trend among carriers taking a more prominent role in terminal assets

Singaporean operator PSA’s mainstay at the top of the box port league is extended by another year, in a 12-month period where volume growth was fairly subdued and the end of the post-pandemic boom hit home

01 / Peter Voser, PSA International 

PSA International, under group chairman Peter Voser, prolongs its stay at the top of the box port operator rankings, even with a marginal fall in its throughput tally.

However, volumes on equity-weighted basis in 2022 from Drewry for the Singaporean giant — the world’s largest private port operator — still came in at more than 60m teu, ensuring PSA retains a commanding lead over its sector rivals.

Although the lion’s share of the group’s container business is moved through its flagship terminal in Singapore, PSA has a presence in 43 other countries and as many as 66 terminals to its name.

While port investments have taken a back seat  the during the past 12 months, PSA has invested heavily in boosting its logistics, inland and intermodal infrastructure, as the non-carrier-affiliated operator continues to enhance its “mid-mile” cargo offering to customers.

In 2023 alone, PSA has made moves in Kazakhstan, Saudi Arabia, Vietnam, Türkiye and Germany.

On the port side of the business, meanwhile, PSA’s attempts to offload its stake in Hong Kong’s Hutchison Ports proved unsuccessful.


Yang Zhijian, Cosco Shipping

02 / Yang Zhijian, Cosco Shipping Ports

Second-ranked China’s Cosco Shipping Ports made up ground on premier port operator PSA in the latest annual teu count, but still trails its Asian rival by some distance.

CSP, the port arm of state-owned conglomerate China Cosco Shipping Corp, runs a portfolio of 371 berths at 38 ports worldwide.

While China remains the mainstay of its business, accounting for about two thirds of its total container throughput, the group’s overseas footprint is steadily growing.

Its latest investment — and perhaps most controversial — has come in Hamburg, acquiring a stake in Hamburger Hafen und Logistik’s Container Terminal Tollerort. This followed a long-drawn-out process amid concerns around Chinese investment in German infrastructure. 

CSP recently revealed it is also targeting Vietnam and Thailand as its next potential port acquisitions.

Yang Zhijian, who boasts more than three decades of container shipping experience, held several senior management positions within the Cosco group before he took over as chairman of CSP from Feng Boming (see no. 3) in May 2022.


Feng Boming, China Merchants Port Holdings

03 / Feng Boming, China Merchants Port Holdings

China Merchants Port Holdings moves up to third place in the rankings to make it an Asian trio at the top, after leapfrogging APM Terminals. 

The Hong Kong-listed state-owned operator has also appointed a new chairman, with former Cosco Shipping executive Feng Boming taking the helm from Deng Renjie, who resigned earlier in 2023.

Boming joined CM Ports in April 2022 from the fellow state conglomerate as a vice-president.

The Chinese port giant has assets in 50 ports across 25 countries and regions on six continents — a feat all the more impressive considering its first foray overseas only came in 2009.

However, one area that had previously eluded CM Ports was Southeast Asia, a key piece of Beijing’s Belt and Road vision.

The group reached an agreement to acquire 51% of PT Nusantara Pelabuhan Handal Tbk (NPH), an Indonesian private port and logistics company, in November 2023, marking the first step in its long-planned expansion into terminal assets in the region. 



Keith Svendsen, APM Terminals

04 / Keith Svendsen, APM Terminals

Having climbed the box ladder in 2022, the Hague-based APM Terminals slips back a place on the latest equity teu count after reporting a slight dip in its annual container throughput total.

Chief executive Keith Svendsen is now in the second year of his reign. He replaced long-serving retiree Morten Engelstoft in the middle of 2022, having acted under his predecessor for five years as chief operating officer.

Maersk’s port arm boasts facilities in 64 locations globally, many of which — as Svendsen readily admitted upon his appointment — are running at or near maximum capacity.

Under Svendsen’s watch, AMPT has been investing to ensure the necessary upgrades — the most eye-catching being an additional 2m teu capacity boost for its Maasvlakte II facility in Rotterdam, which was announced in early 2023.

However, the group is still in the market for new opportunities. In 2023, APMT opened its new facility in Rijeka, Croatia, and agreed a partnership in northern Vietnam to operate a new deepwater port in Haiphong.


Sultan Ahmed bin Sulayem, DP World

05 / Sultan Ahmed bin Sulayem, DP World

DP World, fronted by long-standing chairman and chief executive Sultan Ahmed bin Sulayem, holds on to its top five ranking of the major box port players, despite a dip in traffic in 2022.

The Dubai-based company has become a very different beast since Emirati businessman bin Sulayem took the helm more than a decade ago.

During his tenure, the group has diversified, with ventures throughout the supply chain, to become a self-coined “global trade enabler”. However, DP World still has ambitions to expand its core port and terminal business. 

Over the past 12 months, the operator has continued to capitalise on fresh opportunities overseas — including, most notably, billion-dollar investments in Indonesia and Tanzania, while several significant capacity upgrades are due to be completed at existing facilities before the end of 2023.

The group recently announced a medium-term target to increase global port capacity to as much as 100m teu — a further indication DP World has no plans to diverge from the port sector anytime soon.


Eric Ip, Hutchison Ports

06 / Eric Ip, Hutchison Ports 

Hong Kong’s Hutchison Ports stays in sixth place in 2023, even as it too witnessed lower liftings in 2022. Volumes at its affiliated terminals fell 1.6%, according to the weighted account from Drewry.

Hutchison is the original “global” port operator, laying claim to being the first to venture beyond its domestic roots in the early 1990s through its UK venture in Felixstowe.

Since its initial foray, Hutchison — led by group managing director Erip Ip for more than two decades — now operates more than 50 terminals across Asia, the Middle East, Africa, Europe, the Americas and Australasia.

The latest venture will see Hutchison team up with CS Ports at the Sokhna New Container Terminal in Alexandria, Egypt, for a combined investment of around $700m. The 1.7m teu capacity terminal will serve as a gateway to the Egyptian market. 


Diego Aponte, Mediterranean Shipping Company

07 / Diego Aponte, Mediterranean Shipping Co

Mediterranean Shipping Co has been elevated to an elite standing among the big box port players, having emerged as a major operator in its own right.

While Drewry had previously included MSC’s volumes in its rankings under its port arm Terminal Investment Limited, a series of significant standalone investments in the sector has prompted the London-based analysts to split the pairing as individual entries.

MSC’s impromptu debut in the list was also aided by having increased its stake in TIL in 2022 from 60% to 70%. As a result, MSC’s equity teu total jumped by slightly more than 23% to 27.5m teu in 2022.

The strides made by the Diego Aponte-led group into the port sector is part of a wider trend among carriers taking a more prominent role in terminal assets.

Drewry expects Hapag-Lloyd — particularly after its acquisition of SAAM, which has seen the German line add new facilities in North, Central and South America — and Ocean Network Express to start to threaten the box port sector top 10 in the not-too-distant future.


Christian Gonzalez, ICTSI

08 / Christian R Gonzalez, International Container Terminal Services Inc

Manila-based International Container Terminal Services Inc reported an equity-weighted growth tally of nearly 6% for 2022, as the independent operator continues to cement itself as one of the big port players.

The group’s modus operandi is geared toward public-private partnerships in developing markets, capitalising on countries seeking to divest port assets over to the private sector.

Starting out as single facility in the Philippines capital in the late 1980s, ICTSI today boasts 32 terminals across 19 countries spanning six continents.

Over the past 12 months, however, ICSTI has been relatively quiet on the acquisition front, instead hunkering down to focus on the development of its existing facilities. 

For 2023, ICTSI earmarked as much as $400m to expand and improve productivity and efficiency at terminals including those in Australia, Mexico, the Democratic Republic of Congo and Nigeria.

In addition, the group has pledged more than $250m to add another berth to its flagship facility in the Philippines, the Manila International Container Terminal, which will be able to handle ships up to 18,000 teu while adding 200,000 teu to its capacity in the process.

Christian R Gonzalez took over ICTSI’s operational reins four years ago as global corporate head from Enrique Razon Jr, who remains the group’s chairman and chief executive.



Ammar Kanaan, Terminal Investment Limited

09 / Ammar Kanaan, Terminal Investment Limited

Terminal Investment Limited drops down in our rankings following the move by its parent company MSC to increase its stake in its container terminal division.

As a result, TIL’s equity throughput total fell by almost 20% to just shy of 11m teu in 2022.

TIL was originally set up to provide its carrier affiliate MSC with exclusive port access and berthing space on the trunk liner trades.

The terminal operator’s portfolio grew hand in hand with MSC’s rise to prominence, in what is today the world’s largest container shipping line. However, the carrier has increasingly sought port interests of its own.

Meanwhile, TIL has continued to add to its global footprint. The operator’s latest endeavour was announced in October 2022 for a new container facility in the US port of Baltimore, partnering with a local firm on the greenfield project.

Ammar Kanaan has been TIL’s chief executive since 2018, having taken over from Vikram Sharma upon his retirement. Diego Aponte is TIL chairman.


Rodolphe Saade, CMA CGM

10 / Rodolphe Saadé, CMA CGM 

French container shipping giant CMA CGM returns to the big box port league off the back of some further hefty moves in the sector in recent years. US operator SSA Marine makes way for the French container shipping giant.

The Rodolphe Saadé-led company has made several high-profile mergers and acquisition deals since 2021, including new terminal concessions in Beirut and the repurchase of its Los Angeles facility.

CMA CGM also has a new 1.8m teu facility in Abu Dhabi due to be operational in 2024, while in 2023 alone, it also finalised an acquisition for two terminals in New York from Global Container Terminals, and agreed stakes in two Spanish facilities. 

At the end of 2020, CMA CGM had capacity of just over 12m teu, but such has been the extent of investment in new port capacity, this will have more than doubled by the end of 2024 to more than 30m teu. 

CMA CGM’s throughput figures also include the Marseille-based firm’s port subsidiary, CMA Terminals, and its 51% majority shareholding in its joint venture alongside CM Ports.


The Top 10 box port operators ranking is based on the equity share of global terminal teu volumes in 2022 derived from data provided by London-based consultants Drewry


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