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The port of Southampton is gearing up to handle 16,000 teu capacity container ships after the UK's Marine Management Organisation (MMO) today said it had approved licences for expansion works and associated dredging at two berths.

A land dispute over a sacred grave site in North Jakarta, Indonesia, is holding back the expansion of Tanjung Priok port, Indonesia’s largest container port, operator Hutchison Port Holdings (HPH) has claimed.

DP World has reported a 9.5% rise  in gross volumes for the first quarter of 2012 with the Dubai-based global port operator handling 13.8 m teu across its terminals worldwide.

Russian and Spanish petrol companies Lukoil and Meroil have opened a €50 m ($66.1m) expansion of Meroil’s petrol tank farm faclilities at Barcelona.

On the surface it would appear that cracks have appeared between joint-venture partners PSA International of Singapore and India’s ABG Infralogistics, (ABG).

 Millions of European Union public port finance was squandered on ineffective  transport projects which resulted, in some cases, in empty ports and unused infrastructure, a European Court of Auditors (ECA) report has revealed.

Barcelona Port Authority (APB) has awarded the Grimaldi Group with a 15 year concession to construct and manage a new short sea shipping terminal, APB said on Thursday.

Barcelona increased container throughput by 4% to 2m teu in 2011 but annual net profits slipped by 31% to €56m (€74m) Barcelona Port Authority (APB) said on Thursday.

25/04/2012 Yildirim, meaning ‘thunderbolt’ in Turkish, the nickname given to the late 14th century Sultan Beyasit I, due to his reputation for quick decision-making, seems just as befitting a name for the character of Robert Yuksel Yildirim, President of the Yildirim Group.

25/04/2012 The new wave of port capacity planned along the shores of Turkey’s four seas prompted delight from key industry figures gathered in Istanbul, but also concern over a potential surplus of capacity.

This was PFI’s Black Sea conference, but it swiftly became apparent that Istanbul is continuing to take the lion’s share of Black Sea trade and that further capacity is planned south of Istanbul’s European neighbours.

The Black Sea countries of Ukraine and Georgia have started to look towards the sea in search of opportunities for new seaborne transport, in part, to secure independent energy supplies from Russia.

However, Turkey is scheduled to triple in the coming years, and the country is increasingly attracting international interest. 

Turkish port operator, Arkas Holding, owner of Marport, Turkey’s largest container terminal, the first Turkish facility to be privatised since 1997, reckons that at least half of planned excess of 30m teu will be operational in Turkey by 2015. 

The Turkish Transport Ministry says Turkey will have a 30 million teu capacity by 2023. 

New planned capacity in Turkey, south of the Black Sea, comes as consultants GHK International say overall Black Sea trade has not recovered to the pre-crisis levels of 2007, as illustrated by Istanbul’s snatching of transhipment trade from the Romanian port of Constanta.

GHK International director, Jamie Simpson, said Black Sea’s trade of 6.1m teu in 2007 was larger than the amount of trade moved there four years on.

Straddled over the maritime crossroads of Asia-Europe and Middle Eastern trade and with expectations of growth, Turkey is clearly the confident country of the Black Sea. 

Turkey’s GDP increased by 8.5% last year and the OECD forecasts an average of 6.7% growth over the next five years when $6.2 bn will be injected into ports.

Expectations are high, but Garanti Bank Senior Vice President Mustafa Tiftikcioglu warned of the potential surplus capacity in the Marmara Sea, which already accounts for over 60% of port trade in Turkey.

Current capacity utilisation overall, however, remains relatively low with little more than half of port capacity used in 2011.

Last year, Turkey moved 6.6 m teu according to Arkas Holding and 6.4m according to the government. Current capacity however lies at just over 11m teu. 

“It is an expansive economy, but if you put that against the port sector, box trade is still at a relatively low level compared to the rest of Europe,” said Stephen Hanrahan, Technical Director at Ocean Shipping consultants.

“It is not [yet] a hot spot for the [worldwide] port sector, but the opportunities [in Turkey] are vast,” Hanrahan said.

Hanrahan, PFI’s Black Sea Conference Chairman, a seasoned observer of Turkish ports, has been involved at Turkey’s latest box terminal at Iskenderun on the Mediterranean.

Garanti Bank says bank loans will bear the weight of the majority of the $6.2 bn investment in ports - about $4.5 billion - but the growing loan debt ratio among other factors such as Turkey’s current account deficit means banks are limiting finance supply.Y

Despite the growth of GDP and demand for new capacity, banks which have become increasingly cautious, are calling for a greater equity share in port finance investors.

With liquidity limitations from domestic banks in length and loan quantities, port investors are now expected to turn to international institutions such as the International Finance Corporation, its Istanbul-based Southern Europe Manager, Martin Spicer said.

The Turkish government is meanwhile taking new steps to curb the country’s current account deficit such as tax breaks for domestic industry investors, including maritime industry enterprise, but the economy remains heavily dependent on the costs of energy exports.

Going some way to counteract that are the ambitious plans of the Yildirim Group, which has embarked on a $5bn energy investment in Turkey in the construction of a 5,000 mw power plant to be fuelled by mixed energy commodity resources.

The Yildirim Group is one of the  numerous port operators involved in upgrading and expanding existing capacity in Turkey.

It is also holding talks to acquire 100% share of a bulk terminal, a chemicals terminal and container terminal. It is part of the Yildirim Group’s move to control the supply chain. (See PFI Black Sea Spotlight exclusive interview with Robert Yuksel Yildirim)

The main driver for the plethora of port projects planned in Turkey has been the government’s somewhat erratic privatisation plan and port management liberalisation which has sparked criticism from industry players, including Mustafa Tifitikcioglu, Senior Vice-President at Garanti Bank.

He says privatisation and BOT Build, Operate and Transfer port projects are conflicting and warns of the current lengthy legal battles between operators and the bureaucratic hurdles over obtaining licenses to operate port businesses.

The Yildirim Group, owner of Yilport on the Marmara Sea, also says it is not easy to build a port in Turkey.

“Local authorities and municipalities are not allowing it, and neighbouring ports are not allowing you to grow, so why invest when you have these hurdles,” Robert Yuksel Yildirim, Yildirim Group President said. 

On one hand, controls on privatisation have led to infringements of free competition, whilst on the other industry consultants such as Ocean Shipping warned that the private sector will not be drawn in if government pushes ahead with building publicly financed ports (BOT) next to recently privatised and or greenfield ports.

“Coordination of port investment is required. There is a risk of over-supply if every port wants to capture new demand,” warned Olaf Mark, Manager of Port Cities Programme at the OECD.

Along with new private investments and privatisation plans launched since 1997, the Turkish government hatched plans to develop three hubs on three seas. So far only one plan, a new port at Candarli near Izmir, has been officially approved.

Limak Holdings is currently building the breakwater for the new Candarli port which should be built by 2013, next to potential rival, Izmir, where the Ministry of Transport says that after a series of delays, a new tender has been opened for the privatisation of the port.

Plans to develop a new transhipment port at Mersin on the Mediterranean Sea and one at Filyos on the Black Sea have not seen the light of day.

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