Large, Mega and Ultra-Mega Terminals



Professor Theo Notteboom, Dalian, China; and, Indra Vonck, ITMMA; the University of Antwerp, Port Economics, Antwerp, Belgium


Over the past few years we have seen an increase in terminal development across the globe. The word “mega-terminal” is often used in this context. Growing trade volumes and the newest generation of ultra large ships drive the need for larger and more efficient terminals in the container industry. But how do these developments affect terminal size and port throughput?

Mega-terminals are a direct consequence of growing trade volumes and the scale increases in vessel size. The trend of maximising economies of scale in shipping is visible in almost all subsections of maritime trade but can predominantly be observed in the container business. The strong growth in the deployment of ultra-large container ships of up to 20,000 TEU is well documented. There are no signs that the number of ultra-large container ships will decrease in the coming years.

Terminals are urged to upgrade their facilities to reach unprecedented productivity levels, mainly through automation, a higher crane density, faster terminal operations and advances in yard management and onward inland transportation. At the same time, the call sizes of large vessels lead to a need for more quay space, larger stacking areas and bigger cranes that are able to reach towering stacking heights…

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