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ITE Transport and Logistics

Are Turkish sea ports set to expand?

A global increase in the number of “mega ships” could see the widespread expansion of Turkey’s major sea ports. 
 
Across Turkey, plans are being discussed as to the viability of port expansions, Hurriyet Daily News reported. The nation currently lacks the sea ports and associated logistics facilities to deal with a new breed of giant cargo ships.
 
Mega ships are ships capable of handling more than 8,000 20-foot equivalent container units (TEU). MSC Oscar, the world’s largest cargo vessel, measures around 400 metres in length or roughly the size of the Empire State Building. 19,200 TEU can be accommodated by this huge ship. For context, the biggest container ship in the world in 1995 could hold 6,600.
 
Turkish sea ports & mega ships: what is the current situation?
 
Currently, 20 out of the 54 ports dotted around Turkey’s 8,333 kilometres of coastline can handle ships with a TEU of 14,000. According to Erol Yücel, Chairman of Marti Shipping and Ship Management Co. Inc., only one port in the North-Western province of Tekirdağ is convenient for vessels of this size: Asyaport. 
 
Asyaport, which opened in July 2015, is Turkey’s largest port by capacity and size. The facility covers an area of 300,000 square metres. Captain Kadir Uzun, the port’s Operation Manager, told Hurriyet Daily News that Asyaport can “handle both the current container ships and the ones to be built in the future”, ensuring at least one major Turkish sea port is future proof.
 
“The largest container vessel today, MSC Oscar, can easily dock at Asyaport,” Mr Uzun added.
 
Marport in Istanbul has not been specifically adapted for use by larger container vessels, but can nevertheless accept ships with a size of up to 16,000 TEU. Özgür Kalelioğlu, Vice President for Port and Terminal Services of Arkas Holding, has said investment in the port to increase capacity for larger ships is ongoing. Arkas Holding is Marport’s current operator.
 
What form would expansion take?
 
Essentially, it would mean more ports with larger total areas in order to handle the increased loads mega ships carry. Improved support facilities, loading and unloading equipment, deeper docks and wider berths are essential. A greater number of container cranes, larger warehouses, storage space and a more developed logistics infrastructure is also essential.
 
A possible side effect of updating sea ports across Turkey is further expansion of the rail network. Turkey’s hugely advantageous geographical position necessitates strong rail links – particularly as the nation is soon to become a vital section of the new “Silk Road” linking China to European markets. Establishing strong, efficient networks between any expanded sea ports and railways would be crucial. 
 
An increase in the number of ancillary vessels would also have to be factored into any expansion plans. A nationwide port expansion project would require investment of a number of smaller cargo carrying ships, according to the Vice Chairman of the Department of Logistics Management at Dokyuz Eylül University Maritime Faculty Soner Esmer. 
 
“With the ongoing investment in Turkish ports, we will also be serving for ever-expanding feeder ships --which collect containers from different ports and transport them to central container terminals where they are loaded to bigger vessels,” Mr Esmer told Hurriyet Daily News. 
 
Would expanding Turkish sea ports be economically viable?
 
In a word, yes. The sheer size of mega-ships, and their carrying capacity, points towards lower shipping fees. “Bigger ships always mean more profit,” explained Erol Yücel. “They do not have the drawbacks either in economic or environmental aspects.” By reducing the fuel and manpower requirements of a large fleet of smaller vessels, mega ships have the potential to halve transportation costs.
 
Turkey is flanked by the Black and Mediterranean Seas. Both are hugely important for global trade. These geographical factors play right into Turkey’s hands when it comes to regional sea freight. Half the nation’s exports travel by sea, data from the Turkish Statistics Institute reveals. 2014 saw Turkey export $157 billion worth of goods. $86 billion, more than half, was transported via sea.
 
“Mega ships come into mega-ports, which means a significant amount of loading and a significant economic value,” Soner Esmer said. “If a mega ship goes into a country, it means that country has an important geographical position or an intense load capacity and has suitable ports with enough length, depth, and equipment.” 
 
Failure to adequately upgrade ports could spell disaster. Any mega ships that cannot dock at Turkish ports are forced to look to other destinations. Ultra-large vessel friendly ports include Spain’s Algeciras, Marsaxlokk in Malta, Port Said in Egypt, the Italian port of Gioia Tauro and Morocco’s Tanger Med. All of these are on the trade route to the Far East.
 
The world’s biggest shipping companies have already ordered multiple cargo ships, some of the biggest ever seen, in the first half of 2015. The Port Operators Association of Turkey predicts that many of these vessels will enter service in the coming years. A capacity of 20,000 TEU is expected to be the average.
 
Turkey is committed to upgrading its infrastructural links in the multi-billion dollar Turkey 2023 initiative. Ports do factor highly into this. But if Turkey, already a highly attractive destination for transport and logistics firms, wishes to maintain its status as a major global sea freight hub, multiple port expansions are necessary.
 
 

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