According to the firm's Annual Review of Global ContainerTerminal Operators, released in early October, global containerport throughput is likely to shrink by more than 10% this year,with little or no growth in 2010. The report projects a modestrecovery the following year, but it says most regions will not seethroughput return to '08 levels for three to four more years. As aresult, Drewry researchers say, "With all container lines undersevere financial pressure – and some bankruptcies expected – thesale of some terminal assets owned by carriers in the near futureseems likely."

According to the report, earnings were down last year for anumber of global terminal operators compared to '07, though it saysall global container terminal operators for which data wasavailable made a positive EBITDA/net profit. But the researcherspoint out that a much weaker financial performance can be expectedthis year, given the sharp contraction in container volumes.

At the same time, they add, many international terminaloperators are likely to be able to maintain a reasonably strongEBITDA margin in percentage terms. "This will be a remarkableachievement in the worst year the industry will have everexperienced," the report notes.Despite the decline in cargovolumes, Drewry says most leading global container terminaloperators are schedule to add capacity to their networks by 2014,though most have adopted a more cautious approach, with anunprecedented number of expansion projects shelved, deferred orcanceled. The report writers say they don't know the precise scopeof down scaling because the lack of "transparency" among globaloperators makes accurate assessment of development plansimpossible.

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