>> Transpacific - port coverage from April 1st.more.

>> Are direct services becoming less attractive for shipping lines?. more.

>> What happens to the small ships post Panama Canal expansion?. more.

>> Maersk to acquire Hamburg-Sud and reinforce its presence on the Latin America routes. more.

>>£0.5 trillion of trade passes through UK ports. More.

>> The future of rail freight and private investment. More.

>> The Northern Freight and Logistics report. More. 

>> Oxford Cambridge Expressway Study. More.

>> The potential impact of Brexit on trade. More.

>> India - the impact of shipping lines’ consolidation and the cabotage rule change. More.

>> Iran – changes in maritime services post-sanctions. more.

>> 'India: The only way is up' say MDST in an article published by Lloyds List. More.

>> Hanjin’s collapse - A wake-up call to the industry? More.

>> Peak season 2016: could the seemingly more rational shipping lines restore stability to the market?. More.

>> Panama Canal Expansion: the major announcements so far have been made by the CKYHE Alliance and G6 Alliance: each have indicated the upsizing of some of their vessels on the services passing through the Panama Canal as shown in MDS Transmodal's analysis. More.

>> CMA-CGM’s acquisition of Neptune Orient Lines and Cosco’s merger with China Shipping Container Line (CSCL), prompted the need for a few changes in the current capacity-sharing agreements amongst the shipping lines. More.

>> MDST has been appointed by Transport for the North (TfN), in partnership with York Aviation and Regeneris Consulting, to carry out a review of international passenger connectivity in the North of England. More.

>> Chris Rowland, Managing Director of MDST, presented the draft conclusions from the Transport for the North (TfN) Freight & Logistics Strategy at the Freight in the City Conference in Manchester on 3 March 2016. More.

>> With 22 maritime services, Iran is expected to see an increase of around 250% in the capacity of container shipping passing through its ports in spring 2016, as shipping lines seek to benefit from the removal of sanctions. More.

>> MDST Chairman, Mike Garratt, wrote to the editor of RAIL magazine in March about the future of rail freight in Great Britain. More.

>> MDST has examined the evidence for Chinese ‘dumping’ of steel on the global and UK markets using its World Cargo Database, which allows it to monitor world trade by both volume and value and for detailed commodities. More.

>> East Asia export box trade sees growth of 1.7% in 2015, says MDST in an article published by Lloyds List. More.

>> The UK Department for Transport (DfT) has published road traffic forecasts which used MDST’s GB Freight Model (GBFM) to develop forecasts to 2040 for HGV traffic on the British road network. More.

>> Ports should be at the centre of distribution chains says MDST. More.

>> Based on its analysis of Eurostat port statistics and its own World Cargo Database, MDS Transmodal has concluded that ports handled 640 million tonnes in 2014, a market share of 40%. More.

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Ports at the centre of distribution chains

Before 2008 ports policy and ports’ investment strategies were focussed on trade growth and adding capacity due to pressure from customers (mainly container shipping lines) for more berths, within the context of the Habitats Directives which require Government to be able to justify such investment in environmentally sensitive locations.  Since the Great Recession the focus of strategy for the larger UK ports should, arguably, have switched from accommodating growth to winning share in a stable market, adding value through extending roles in supply chains and seeking to exploit the policy need to achieve greater sustainability.

The role of UK ports is mainly to handle imported manufactured goods, as the UK no longer manufactures significant volumes of such products, and imported energy goods.  In the energy market, there remain opportunities in the offshore wind market, but less imported coal should be handled in the future and biomass is likely to offer more  limited opportunities for traffic and revenue growth; the North sea oil and gas industry is in decline and there are continuing uncertainties in relation to Government energy policy.

When MDS Transmodal completed its UK national port traffic forecasts for the DfT in 2007 (still quoted in the DfT’s Ports NPS, published January 2014), it was in the context of rapid growth in port traffic in the container and RORO sectors because of the gradual substitution of UK manufacturing capacity with imported goods.  The original 2005-based forecasts mainly addressed the public interest case and forecast mean growth for all traffic in tonnes of 1.0% p.a. to 2030.  However, traffic volumes were severely affected by the 2008-09 economic downturn and fell by 14% in 2009.  Tonnages since 2009 have been very stable and, based on our analysis of trade data, growth has returned in 2014.

Despite a more stable market environment and a less urgent need for further port development, port traffic forecasting remains relevant because of the urgent need to develop inland infrastructure to which ports need to have integrated connections - particularly because, if you exclude secondary and tertiary handling of goods, port traffic accounts for more than 50% of all road and rail freight traffic. 

MDS Transmodal produced rail freight forecasts in 2014 for Network Rail using its GB Freight Model, but this required us to develop updated forecasts of port traffic up to 2033 and even 2043 based on historic trends for unitload traffics and, as far as possible, on Government policy for energy goods.  The model was also used to assign the port traffic to the road and rail network, along with domestic traffic, allowing analysis of capacity constraints. Most road freight traffic growth is likely to be seen on the core motorway network between Dover and the Channel Tunnel and London, on the A14 between Felixstowe and the Midlands, around the northern sections of the M25 and on the M1, M6 and M62 corridors.  Almost all of these sections of the strategic road network already suffer from heavy congestion.  On the rail network the greatest traffic increase is likely to be seen on the WCML north of Birmingham, on the ECML north of Peterborough and on the routes  between these lines and the major deep sea container ports.

UK ports face only modest growth prospects in terms of growth in tonnages, but have more scope than most ports on the continental mainland to engage in commercial activities, while retaining the right to levy dues and charges as they see fit under the Harbours Act.  In this context there is an opportunity for the ports to intervene in the market to extend maritime and inland (particularly rail) networks to improve their respective competitive positions in collaboration with existing actors.  The prize lies in further penetrating the distribution sector either within port estates (via port-centric distribution) or inland if linked to dry ports.  Ports are therefore heavily dependent for growth in added value on inland transport networks and therefore urgently need to engage positively with public sector initiatives to improve rail and road infrastructure.