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Hellenic shipping news interviews Mr.Hiro Nagai from The International Association of Ports&Harbors

Tuesday, 15 May 2007 | 17:53

Having just returned from Houston where the 27th World Ports Conference of the International Association of Ports & Harbors (IAPH), Mr. Hiro Nagai, Assistant Under Secretary of the Association had interesting things to say. He talks about the biggest

challenges port authorities face today, the congestion problems in various ports around the world, the rising trend of non-maritime related investors pouring money in the sector and the upgrading works now undertaken in major ports worldwide.Historical Background: On November 7th 1955,

some 100 delegates from 38 ports and maritime organizations in 14 countries gathered in Los Angeles to announce the creation of the International Association of Ports and Harbors (IAPH). It marked its 50th Anniversary (Golden Jubilee) in 2005. Over the past five decades, IAPH has developed into a global alliance of ports, representing today some 230 ports in about 90 countries. The member ports handle over 60% of the world?s sea-borne trade and more significantly, nearly 90% of the world?s container traffic. It is a non-profit-making and non-governmental organization (NGO) headquartered in Tokyo, Japan. IAPH meets in a full session once every two years at its biennial conference in different port cities around the world. The plenary sessions of IAPH conference is the supreme policy-making body of the Association. It is more commonly known as IAPH World Ports Conference and often referred to as the World Port Summit where the key players of the world port industry "“ port CEOs, directors and managers "“ gather from all over the world once in every two years to discuss issues of their immediate interest and concern for sharing better practice.

Which are the biggest challenges port authorities are faced with in today's rapidly evolving transportation environment?
1) To develop more terminal capacity to deal with ever increasing container cargo volume
2) To ensure port security by complying
with ISPS Code
3) To explore ways and means to become more environmentally friendly, e.g. reducing air pollution in a port

How difficult is it to keep up with the constant growing of world trade, causing major bottlenecks and congestion problems in various ports around the world, like Chittagong and Newcastle of Australia to mention some?
One of the difficulties stems from the ways and means of financing port development ? container terminal expansion and dredging navigational channels to accommodate bigger container ships.

Would you agree to the notion that years of underinvestment have led in today's situation?
Not necessarily.

Are the planned investments in major ports around the world enough to cope with the growing number of goods travelling around the globe? Could you provide us with some figures on these investments?
We think sufficient. Unfortunately we do not have any supporting data on this.

Is it a problem (congestion) of the ports only, or would you say that the whole supply chain suffers (railways, trucks) to handle goods in and out of the ports?
The problem of congestion is short-lived and not universal.Β  It is found only at some ports where the rate of cargo increase is drastic, coupled with some seasonal factors.

Ships are growing in sizes and numbers. Will today's ports become obsolete in tomorrow's environment?
Ports are always trying to meet the requirements of their customers ? shipping lines. As in other business, ports in a given region and country are competitors with one another, and those trying hard can prevail over others.

During the past few months, we?ve witnessed a number of major investment deals involving ports around the world (OOCL, AIG, Ontario Pension Fund). Is it merely a 'fashion trend' or are ports a hot 'commodity', like real estate?
It is a new trend in that investors with no port/maritime background join in port investment. As the sale of terminals owned and operated by a private entity (shipping line) to investors is a normal business transaction, it should not be mixed with the sale of entire port entity (port authority), especially general public use terminals.

Nikos Roussanoglou, Hellenic Shipping News

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