With the exception of South Africa and a few North African countries, ports have been characterized by parameters such as limited depth, low throughput, lack of modern and high performance equipment, lack of maintenance, imbalance between import and export, and a public sector management structure. This picture is changing quite rapidly. An increasing number of ports in Africa are changing their institutional framework and management structure, allowing the landlord port management model to be implemented, which, in turn, is paving the way for concessioning of terminals, foremost of container terminals. In addition, a few African ports have become regional transshipment hubs.
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East Asia & Pacific
In 1985, Rotterdam and New York were the largest container ports in the world. In 2009, Hong Kong and Singapore ranked first, leaving Rotterdam and New York respectively in 11th and 20th position. The 2009 Top 10 league of container ports lists nine EAP ports and Dubai. Asian ports, China in particular, are the largest in terms of dry bulk throughput, especially coal and iron ore.
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Europe & Central Asia
Ports in Western Europe have long been ranked among the largest ports in the world. They offer the intermodal advantage that inland water transport is possible deep into the European hinterland. Despite the fact that water allows for the cheapest way of transport, Europe has seen a revival of cargo transport by rail, implementing the so-called dedicated block train, and even of multimodal transport corridors and terminals. The landlord port management model is the predominant model in Western European ports, and is increasingly implemented in East European and Central Asian ports.
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Latin America & Caribbean
Like Africa, Latin America is not situated on one of the world's major maritime corridors. As a result, it cannot tap into these cargo flows and distribute them in the wider region. Like Africa, Latin America is a continent that is served on the eastern and western coasts by shipping lines which, for the larger part, sail down to the most southern port, turn around and head back north. As a result, very few ports handle regional transshipment cargoes besides those of the Caribbean region like the Port of Kingston or those located near the Panama Canal. Large port facilities for the export of bulk commodities can be found in both Brazil (iron ore export ports) and Venezuela (crude oil exports facilities). In recent years, landlord port management and the concessioning of terminals to the private sector were widely introduced in the region.
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Middle East & North Africa
The region's port sector is characterized by large numbers of crude oil, LNG, and products loading facilities, as well as very large container transshipment terminals such as Dubai, Salalah, Port Said East and Jeddah. In addition, new ports and terminals are being developed in places such as Tangiers and Jeddah. Many of these terminals have been concessioned to the private sector, and benefit from an ideal location - on or close to one of the largest maritime transport routes in the world, i.e. the one between Asia and Europe. From there, cargoes are transshipped to smaller ports in the eastern Mediterranean, the northen part of the Gulf, the Indian sub-continent, the Black and the east coast of Africa. As the number of large deep water ports increases, so does the competition between the facilities.
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In terms of container transshipment, the port of Colombo, Sri Lanka has long been a forerunner, compared to India and Pakistan for instance. In recent years, however, the number of adequate facilities, such as those in Nhava Sheva, India and the terminals in Karachi, started to attract limited volumes of regional transshipment cargoes. Whereas Sri Lanka and Pakistan have entered into concessioning contracts with private operators, India is still lagging behind. On the other hand, India has developed an efficient national rail container shuttle service. The other important maritime nation in the region, i.e. Bangladesh, still handles most of its imports and exports through the port of Chittagong. The facility is connected by inadequate road and rail facilities to its main inland origin and destination, the capital Dhaka. The World Bank is assisting Bangladesh to improve inland water transport between the tow cities, including the movement of containers.
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Ports and Waterborne Freight (PDF, 5MB)
Ports form the window of the country to the outside world. Experience shows that those that are under-developed, congested, too small, too shallow, badly managed, poorly equipped, and unfortunately often in a combination of these factors, lead to higher consumer prices of goods that have to be imported and/or to less competitive prices of export products on the world market.
This paper provides an extensive overview of the many components of freight transport in the waterborne sector.