In many parts of the world, offshore ports can be the perfect solution for meeting the requirements of the rapid changes in the international container and bulk shipping industry. Bigger ships, changing routes and destinations require larger and deeper ports, which port owners and operators can be confident will be capable of handling ever-increasing sizes of vessels for many years to come.
Changing shipping routes
One of the major challenges in the current container shipping industry is to bundle and organise capacity in the most economical way. In terms of vessel size, Maersk is leading the way with its Triple E vessel-class, but the capacity of these new, larger ships needs to be combined with other main carriers in order for it to be effective. Various alliances have been formed and new ones are being developed. As part of this process, capacity is being shifted to routes which haven’t changed for many years; such is the case in West Africa. Due to the so-called cascading down process, ships which were never originally intended for use in West Africa will now soon be there. Ports like Abidjan in the Ivory Coast are already anticipating these changes and looking at possible solutions. Others are talking about it, but haven’t really started to tackle the issue yet. However, many of the traditional ports lack the physical possibilities in terms of size, depth and finance to make the necessary changes required to enable them to cater for larger vessels and increased capacity. As a consequence, offshore hubs along parts of the West and East African coasts are a very valid solution: in the Guinea–Liberia region for the