The nerve centres

What does a Triple-E need when she comes into port? Maersk Line and APM Terminals are working together to increase efficiency in seven transshipment hub ports, the nerve centres of global trade which connect large volume lanes with regional and local spokes that can’t be served by bigger vessels. 

The nerve centres
The two APM Terminals operations at Tangier’s twin port of Algeciras, work in tandem as an integrated Western Mediterranean transshipment hub. Photo: Jesper Schwartz

A pivot point for trade

  • Maersk Line is a key customer of APM Terminals Algeciras and Tangier, whose strategic location provides a natural transshipment point for cargoes moving on vessels on the primary East/West shipping route
  • There are seven transshipment hub ports: Algeciras and Tangier; Maasvlakte 2 and Rotterdam (the Netherlands); Tanjung Pelepas (Malaysia); Salalah (Oman); and Port Said (Egypt)
  • APM Terminals is investing EUR 758 million in the new APM Terminals MedPort Tangier, which will increase the complex’s overall capacity to over 9 million twenty-foot equivalent units (TEUs)
  • 33% of all Maersk Line container moves are with APM Terminals; 43% of all Maersk Line container moves are transshipment moves
  • 36% of global Maersk Line business is operated or passes through the Western Mediterranean hub

Captain Niels Larsen orders a course adjustment, and Madrid Mærsk nudges in towards the mountains that tumble down to Tangier port. Once berthed, the APM Terminals cranes drop down over the stacks of containers, taking off cargo for distribution to customers in Morocco, across the Mediterranean, Africa and even Latin America.

On the far side of the water, the Rock of Gibraltar rises up above Tangier’s twin port of Algeciras, facing Morocco from the southern tip of Spain. The two APM Terminals operations work in tandem as an integrated Western Mediterranean transshipment hub. They have also begun to cooperate more closely with Maersk Line, bringing benefits across the business.

“What I need them to deliver first of all, is safe operation. Where disregarding speed, the containers are discharged and loaded in a safe way so the port workers, stevedores, lashing people and my
crew are safe," says Captain Larsen.

"Sometimes speed can compromise that in the pursuit of good results, but in Algeciras and Tangier they seem to have a good balance between the two.”

Trade hub

The Strait of Gibraltar is one of the choke points of global trade, with over 200 cargo vessels passing through daily on major liner services linking Asia, Europe, the Americas and Africa. It is a critical point in the Maersk Line network and a focus of the Hub Partnership Programme, an effort put in place by Maersk Line and APM Terminals to foster closer working relations. Without losing focus on import and export business, where Algeciras and Tangier offer unmatched gateways to and from the world, the vast majority of containers are transshipment cargo – cargo on its way to somewhere else in the world.

The teams looked at how they could better manage, plan and utilise assets on both sides of the straights and have shared goals and incentives across the businesses, explains Jack Craig, Head of Hub Terminals.

"When we took a look at the underlying synergy pools, one thing that became clear was that elevating the performance of the hubs, from both the APM Terminals and Maersk Line perspectives, created a tremendous amount of network value and Transport & Logistics synergies," Craig says.

Poster image
Watch Madrid Maersk entering Tangier port. 00:29

Both APM Terminals and Maersk Line are now included in a joint berth planning process. Doing this well can free up capacity and means resources can be better allocated. It is a significant change in culture for many in both businesses.

"We are currently in the process of implementing these changes," Craig adds. "With time, such kinds of initiatives will drive much of the value creation."

Tangier expansion

As part of preparations to receive Triple-Es in 2013, Algeciras embarked on a complex project that required the acquisition of four new, specially designed cranes, making another four higher and upgrading and dredging the main quay. In Tangier, dredging work ensured a draught of 18 metres along the quay.

“Above all else, to me the key success factor of the project was the close collaboration between Maersk Line and APM Terminals. This was crucial to successfully completing a project that would create the value needed by our customers,” says Jesus Caceres, COO of APM Terminals West-Med, Algeciras berth. “I strongly believe that collaboration is one of our main competitive advantages.”

Now, APM Terminals is constructing a new facility at Tangier, which is to open in 2019 and will complement the existing port. Under the terms of a new contract, Svitzer will be responsible for all container towage services at the new port for the next 20 years – a team effort across APM Terminals, Svitzer and Maersk Line. Cooperation makes a big difference for those at the sharp end.

“The closer the two desks are to each other, the less misunderstandings one experiences, both in terms of cargo and in terms of schedule efficiency,” says Captain Larsen. “If people don’t speak together there will always be misunderstandings.”