The european ports are making a stand against increasingly coarse container ships and want to use the leverage of antitrust law to do so.
"Coarser ships require large additional investments in port infrastructure," said gunther bonz, president of the unternehmensverband hafen hamburg (UVHH), referring to turning circles, quay walls and deep and wide fairways. These investments are to be borne mainly by the taxpayers, he told the german press agency. The elbe deepening project currently underway is expected to cost approximately 780 million euros.
Currently, the coarse container ships are around 400 meters long and more than 60 meters wide with a draught of up to 16.50 meters. They can carry up to 23.Transport 000 standard containers (TEU). From the port’s point of view, that’s the way it should stay. However, ports fear that shipowners and shipyards are planning a new generation of ships, with 460-meter-long and 68-meter-wide mega-ships and a capacity of 30.000 TEU. A corresponding study is already known, said bonz: "and if there is a study, then the ships will also be built soon."
The EU could prevent this through antitrust law. The major global shipping companies are organized into three alliances to coordinate their schedules and deploy their capacities effectively. For this they need special permissions from the main antitrust authorities in the USA, europe and china. The EU’s current approval expires next march. "The eu should only grant a new permit subject to substantive conditions," demanded bonz, who also heads the european ports association feport.
The operators of around 400 port terminals in europe are making several demands on the EU in this connection. One of the most important: in the future, no ship will be allowed to call at european ports that is rougher than the fleet that has been sailing so far. In other words, a stop signal for the shipping companies and shipyards to continue the current race for ever larger ships. The u.S. Had already successfully gone down this road and set limits on the size of ships, bonz said.
Hamburg and the other european ports want to take the demand to the new commission under the leadership of ursula von der leyen, which starts its work in november, and also to the eu member states and the european parliament.
A spokesman for the german shipowners’ association rejects the accusations: "no port operator is forced to accept and handle certain ships."It surprises him that "private port operators are now calling for government bans on large ships for their customers". He also doubts the effectiveness of such EU regulations on ship sizes: "the market will then look for other routes or ports. This can not be wanted."This could end up harming european ports in competition with ports without coarse borders.