Carriers hit by a wave of rising costs are reconsidering Northern Europe’s boxport networks

CMA CGM has announced that from May 15 it will transfer its remaining ship calls in the Polish port of Gdynia to the Baltic Hub container terminal in Gdańsk.

After 15 years as DCT Gdansk, the two-terminal, 2.7 million TEU capacity facility was renamed the Baltic Hub in October and has a third terminal, T3, due for completion by 2025, increasing the annual capacity to around 4 .5 million TEU increased.

CMA CGM claims that the terminal change will “provide better accessibility for domestic traffic in Poland and the surrounding countries”.

As terminal operators press shipping lines to raise tariffs as their costs skyrocket from wage deals and huge energy price hikes, they risk losing business to competitors.

Additionally, the looming demise of the 2M alliance and the possibility of another round of line consolidation make port managers more concerned than usual about the outcome of their annual contract negotiations.

Indeed, hauliers are using the drop in congestion to review their hub-and-spoke networks in northern Europe to ensure they can offer shippers operational advantages over competitors when demand picks up again. But they don’t lose sight of port and stevedore costs when making their decisions.

CMA CGM and its competitors are taking issue with the terminal pinch points of the heavily congested 2021 and 2022 periods and are discussing rotation changes to loops or, in some cases, hub-port substitutions as appropriate with their east-west partners in the vessel-sharing alliance.

At the same time, airlines are increasing their terminal investments and tightening the terms of their congestion contracts.

To better plan their workforce and weekly cargo operations, terminal operators are demanding double-digit increases in contract rates, volume commitments, and schedule integrity assurances from shipping companies.

In his latest Insights into ports and terminals Analysis says Drewry annual tariff increases achieved by terminal operators may have mitigated some of the unexpected hits in storage revenue (an indirect benefit from port congestion), but the sharp drop in throughput so far this year is hurting results.

However, the adviser said an improving economic outlook and a reduction in energy costs “are expected to provide some breathing space in the second half of the year”.

Freight forwarders such as Maersk and Hapag-Lloyd regularly updated their customers on hub port quay utilization and shore-side congestion, information which in turn is used by shippers to keep their customers informed of supply chain delays.

Terminal operational updates aside, by far the biggest criticism leveled at airlines during congestion peaks has been the lack of communication when cargo is overlanded at ‘wayports’. In many cases, relay operations back to the port of destination took several weeks, resulting in split shipments, serious disruptions and supply chain uncertainties.

It follows that in the new, commercially oriented environment, airlines want better contingency plans to deal with temporary hub-port disruptions.

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