ISTANBUL, Feb 13 (Reuters) – Top global shipping lines are looking to expand operations in Turkey to some of its fast-growing private ports to tap into strong export growth and an anticipated rise in trade with parts of the Middle East including northern Iraq.
Turkey’s government wants to boost total annual exports to $500 billion and trade to above $1 trillion by 2023, more than three times current levels, and needs to raise its total port handling capacity sharply to reach this goal.
Danish oil and shipping group A.P. Moller-Maersk , France’s CMA CGM and Geneva-based Mediterranean Shipping Company (MSC) are all in talks with Turkish port operators about using new shipping routes from Turkey, industry executives and consultants told Reuters.
The biggest shippers currently use Turkey’s main ports including Istanbul, Izmir, Mersin and Izmit but are looking at expanding to Iskenderun on the southeastern Mediterranean coast, Petkim port in Aliaga on the Aegean coast, and ports around the Marmara Sea.
“All of the major players like Maersk, CMA CGM, MSC are serving Turkey and see it as a growth market,” said Neil Davidson, a senior adviser of ports at independent market monitor Drewry Shipping Consultants.
“Iskenderun… has quite small container volumes at present, but is seen by the developers as having potential to serve an extended hinterland beyond Turkey into countries such as Iraq.”
Turkey does 88 percent of its trade via its ports, according to an Ernst and Young report, and its exports are expected to continue to rise sharply after double-digit growth last year.
Its southeastern ports, such as Iskenderun, are the closest to northern Iraq’s autonomous Kurdistan region, with which Turkey is a major and growing trade partner.
“Turkey has shown strong trade growth rates over the past years,” said Tom Gronnegaard, Managing Director for Maersk Denizcilik in Turkey, which represents Maersk Line and Safmarine Container Lines.
“We find the southeast market quite interesting and have until now covered the market via Mersin. We are presently evaluating whether we can offer our clients an even better service by calling also Iskenderun port,” Gronnegaard said.
Maersk was also following the development of Petkim port – a small facility near Izmir which is expected to expand over the next few years. But Gronnegaard said Turkey still lacked a true container terminal that could accommodate larger vessels with a 15-16 metre draft.
Turkey has a coastline of more than 8,000 km (4,960 miles) and is strategically positioned between Europe and Asia. The country has around 175 ports, mostly privately operated and concentrated around Istanbul, its largest city.
Its overall handling capacity was 6.6 million TEU in 2011, three times that of Greece, according to Drewry Shipping Consultants.
Logistics firm DHL expects Turkey’s handling capacity to reach 10.5 million TEU by 2015, 15.2 million TEU by 2020 and 22 million TEU by 2025.
“For the time being we are calling Assan Port which is located 15 km from Iskenderun,” CMA-CGM, the world’s third-largest container shipper, said in a written response to questions about its business in Turkey.
“The biggest advantage of this port is its geographic location, its proximity to the industrial regions of Antep and Maras. And also of course its proximity to Iraq.” (Writing by Seda Sezer; Editing by Nick Tattersall/Mark Heinrich)
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