IAPH World Port Tracker: No investment delays in ports


IAPH survey says ports around the world are more optimistic than half a year ago about the expected traffic evolution.

The latest IAPH World Ports Tracker report, summarizing data from the second half of 2023 as reported by IAPH members, indicates a positive outlook for global port investments.

Survey results from member ports revealed that there were no delays or cancellations in port investments across any specific region.

Co-authored by Professor Theo Notteboom and Professor Thanos Pallis, the comprehensive 110-page report provides regional breakdowns and detailed analyses of data from IAPH member port respondents, the S&P Global Port Performance Program, and the UNCTAD Liner Shipping Connectivity Index.

Port investments

Notably, 39% of surveyed container ports anticipate the operationalization of major capacity expansions or upgrades in 2024. Additionally, 41% of ports intend to allocate more land to logistics and distribution activities, while 38% plan to expand land use to accommodate non-fossil energy production.

With respect to types of investments, the priority have been investments devoted to advancing infrastructure. Data from IAPH shows that such investments were executed in 2023 in more than half of the ports (53%). A small percentage of ports (2%) canceled or shelved such investments. The number of ports that did not have any such infrastructure development plans stood at 11% in 2023.

Beyond upgrades of existing infrastructure, investments included new container terminals, in some cases with advanced levels of automation, and investments targeting digitalized infrastructure. Investments also focused on electric vehicles, constructing facilities, and development processes such as pre-delivery inspection centers.

The second type of investment examined transport infrastructure including roads, railways, inland waterways infrastructure, and pipelines. The survey revealed that during 2023 half of these (50%) investments were executed as planned or were subject to minor delays (34%). Significant delays were reported by 13% of the ports, with 3% of ports shelving or canceling their investments.

The third type of investment was the onshore power supply for seagoing and inland vessels. About 35% of ports indicate that they did not have such investments planned in 2023. Among the ports that are investing in this type of infrastructure, 49% said they were executing their investments as planned, 31% said they had minor delays and 17% had to deal with major delays.

The fourth investment type is solar/wind energy. Almost half of the ports surveyed reported that they had no such investments planned in 2023 despite rising demand for green electricity.

Finally, the last category is related to making alternative shipping fuels available in ports. This includes investments in fuel production, bunkering infrastructure, and associated line infrastructure for methanol, ammonia, green hydrogen, biofuels, and others.

IAPH said that they made a sobering revelation with only slightly more than one-third of ports saying that they had such investments planned in 2023.

Red Sea impact and traffic outlook

“When asked the special questions on the impact of the Red Sea crisis, 63% of ports reported no noticeable delays in vessel arrivals, 28% pointed to minor delays (a few days), and only 9% faced major delays with ships being delayed by a week or more. This was also reflected in feedback from world ports during the recent IAPH Harbor Cafés – the majority were not impacted, while the ones which were had taken significant hits in terms of congestion,” Professor Notteboom said.

The report further found that ports around the world are, on average, more optimistic than half a year ago about the expected traffic evolution in the next twelve months. In Sub-Saharan Africa, the vast majority of ports expect healthy growth.

The situation for container transport fluidity by rail and barge slightly deteriorated, while the share of ports facing delays in trucking in Q4 2023 saw a further decline at the single-digit level with several regions reporting no problems at all. The shortage of truck drivers at world ports remains quite high at 38% of all respondents, IAPH said.

Furthermore, 13% of the responding ports realised a growth of more than 10% in container vessel calls, with liquid bulk and dry bulk ports recording in Q4 2023 percentage growth by 7% and 10% respectively.

On a year-on-year basis, port productivity in Q4 2023 only increased in North America, North Asia and South East Asia.

UNCTAD’s Liner Shipping Connectivity Index (LSCI) increased in seven of the ten best-connected countries. LSCI continues to rise faster in South Korea, Japan, and China. The countries topping the list continue to increase the gap with the rest, according to the report.

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