Analysis of Container Terminal Key Assets

By MarEx 2014-11-11 11:44:00

The operational performance of the world’s container terminals shows wide variation depending on location, terminal size and traffic type, according to the Container Terminal Capacity and Performance Benchmarks report published by shipping consultancy Drewry.

The report analyses the actual performance of a sample of around 500 terminals worldwide for a three year period (2011-2013) covering the three key aspects of container terminals: the quay line, the yard and the ship-to-shore gantry cranes.

“These analyses are deliberately distinct from typical service level related measures such as crane moves per hour, said Neil Davidson, senior analyst in Drewry’s Ports & Terminals practice. “Instead, they reflect the performance of the most important - and expensive - infrastructure and equipment assets in a modern container terminal. This is key information for operators and investors to be aware of. For example, an equipment manufacturer will tell you that a gantry crane can theoretically handle 250,000 teu per annum and this is true. But our analysis shows that the reality is that on average, the world’s gantry cranes actually only ever handle about half this amount per annum.”

A summary of the global averages for 2013 is shown in the table below.

Global container terminals, key asset performance metrics (2013)

Performance measure

Global average

Teu per meter of quay p.a.


Teu per hectare p.a.


Teu per gantry crane p.a.


Source: Drewry’s Container Terminal Capacity and Performance Benchmarks (

 On all three measures, terminals in Asia and the Middle East generally achieved higher figures than the world averages. The difference is most marked in teu per hectare where the highest performing regions saw up to 70% more than the world averages. Regions which achieved lower figures than the world averages included North America and parts of Europe.

There are a number of reasons for these regional differences. For example, the performance of large terminals is markedly higher than small ones. Average terminal size in Asia is much higher than in places such as Africa or South America.

In addition, the performance of transhipment terminals is markedly higher than gateway ones – for several reasons including larger vessel sizes and container exchanges per call, low container dwell times, and also because most transhipment terminals are much larger than most gateway ones.

Choice of yard equipment naturally has a strong bearing on teu per hectare, and many Asian terminals have high density RTG and RMG systems. Terminals with smaller throughputs have a greater tendency to use low density yard stacking equipment, and those with higher throughputs use denser yard stacking solutions.

The report also specifically examines the performance of the 25 fully and semi-automated container terminals that are operational today around the world. These automated terminals account for less than 5% of terminals globally, although the proportion is growing.

In 2013 they achieved teu per meter of quay and teu per crane around 25% higher than the world average. However, in part this is because the average throughput of the automated terminals in the sample was around 70% higher than the world average terminal throughput. Significantly though, the teu per hectare of terminal area for automated terminals was around 10% below the global average.

“Terminal automation is a high profile topic even though its deployment, for now, is relatively limited,” continued Davidson. “Our analysis suggests that its effect on the intensity of use of key container terminal assets is variable and so automation decisions need to be weighed up very carefully on a case-by-case basis.”

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