Friday, January 3, 2020

Saga of Port's Container Terminals Changing Hands Continues Unabated

Deal Agreed on One of Europe's Busiest Facilities
Shipping News Feature

NETHERLANDS – The long vaunted deal whereby APM Terminals had to sell off its Rotterdam container handling facility, allegedly at the behest of the European Commission (EC), seems to have been ratified with the signing of a letter of intent with Hutchison Ports.

Hutchison owns the neighbouring ECT Delta terminal and takes on the deal with a built in agreement that the APM facility will continue life independent of the new owners, and with the benefit of a guarantee from APM’s parent group, A P Moller-Maersk that TEU throughput will continue for the next five years, and that there will be no forced redundancies for until at least four years.

The APM terminal has a potential throughput of around two and a half million TEU and, although not all details are available, it seems Hutchison is looking to acquire all shares in the terminal and extend its leases with the Port of Rotterdam, securing the future of both facilities.

The Port of Rotterdam built its Euromax Terminal with the aid of a €200 million loan from the EC which was granted in 2004. The control of the Euromax development was handed to a joint venture between Europe Container Terminals (ECT), part of the Hutchison empire, and P&O Nedlloyd BV with the understanding that the two would construct and operate a further container terminal within the port.

Since the original deal P&O Nedlloyd has been bought by Maersk and 35% of Euromax has been acquired by Chinese interests. Consultations are to be held with trade unions about the intended sale. In addition, approval must of course be sought from, and granted by, the relevant competition authorities before the sale is completed.

The Rotterdam terminals have seen constant changes in the past two decades since Maersk acquired Sea Land in 1999, a deal which meant its first foot in the logistics door as it included ownership of the Delta Sea Land terminal. In the same year an agreement meant part of the ECT facilities would again be dedicated to include Maersk vessel calls. A joint venture between Maersk and ECT called Maersk Delta saw a 2 to 1 shareholding between the partners at which point Hutchison stepped in and bought ECT.

This last caused the EC in the form of the Merger Task Force to get involved, leading to the Maersk Delta terminal coming under the complete control of Maersk, and thence to APM when that was acquired. The latest news seems to be a continuation of such shenanigans as Rotterdam strives to continue its pre-eminence as the leading European port, topping the tables for both numbers of TEU handled and cargo tonnages, plus the busiest for transhipments.