Iran sanctions pinch but Gulftainer reports 53% growth in trade

Gulftainer reported that the total amount of cargo it had processed through its container terminals last year increased 53.8 per cent on the previous year.

The Sharjah-based ports company Gulftainer today reported an increase in trade volumes driven by its foreign operations, while its domestic work suffered the effects of sanctions against Iran.

Overall, Gulftainer, which is privately owned, said the amount of cargo that passed through its container terminals last year increased 53.8 per cent on the previous year.

It was the company’s newly acquired Jubail Container Terminal in Saudi Arabia that really propelled last year’s increase in volumes. Gulftainer said throughput at the port increased by a staggering 34 per cent over.

Last June, Gulftainer grew by half when it acquired a 51 per cent stake in the operations of Gulf Stevedoring Contracting, which runs the Jubail port.

Gulftainer’s total throughput for 2013 rose to 6 million TEU (20-foot equivalent units – a unit for measuring container size) from 3.9 million the previous year.

Throughput rose 3 per cent at the company’s three ports in Sharjah, at Khorfakkan on the Gulf of Oman and at Ruwais in Abu Dhabi emirate.

The Khorfakkan terminal, which is in Sharjah but is surrounded by Fujairah, has grown at a pace of 6.5 per cent a year over the past five years. But in a statement today, Gulftainer said the terminal’s growth slowed in 2013 because of international sanctions against Iran.

The company also reported “double digit growth” for throughput at its operations in Iraq – two container berths in Umm Qasr.

“The overall growth achieved in the last 12 months has exceeded anything we’ve done in previous years,” said Peter Richards, managing director of Gulftainer. “We are at an exciting stage where we are being invited by port authorities to enter and establish our facilities in new territories. ”

Gulftainer has previously said that as part of an ambitious expansion drive towards handling 18 million TEUs of cargo at 35 terminals across five continents by 2020, it was working on a deal with a US operator to expand into North America.

And today, Gulftainer said it was investing heavily in expansion plans for the Port of Recife in Brazil.

Gulftainer is the latest UAE-based ports operator to report an increase in trade last year. Last month, DP World announced a 2.7 per cent growth in traffic at its Jebel Ali container port, while Abu Dhabi Ports Company reported that container traffic was up 14.6 per cent at Khalifa Port.

The positive news from the Middle East contrasts with the financials posted by major container lines elsewhere.

Last month, Singapore’s Neptune Orient Lines said its net loss in the fourth quarter widened as the container shipping industry continued to suffer from overcapacity and sluggish demand.

Last week, Norway’s AP Moller-Maersk reported that fourth-quarter profit fell 7.5 per cent driven partly by lower freight rates.

And in Chile, the shipping giant Compania Sudamericana de Vapores reported a US$169 million loss for 2013.

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Published: March 3, 2014 04:00 AM


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