The recent opening of the expanded Panama Canal has helped pave the way for a new era of 'big shipping' for North and Latin America, with potentially profound effects for container trade flows, ports and intermodal operations right across the region.
As the first wave of 8,000-10,000 TEU 'Neopanamax' vessels starts to flow through the widened Canal, and with M&A and alliance activity rapidly reshaping the shipping landscape, ocean carriers will gather at the 16th TOC Americas Container Supply Chain conference in Cancun, Oct 11-13, to take stock and discuss the future with other key supply chain members.
Efraín Osorio, Head of Latin America Trade for APL, is the latest regional liner executive to confirm his attendance. He joins an 11 October session on "Forecasting the future of shipping networks: the changing dynamics of liner trades" alongside Maximiliano Alcorta, Regional Operations Manager at MSC Chile.
Also speaking at the conference are Felipe Bracamontes, President of the Mexican Association of Shipping Agents (AMANAC), Matthias Dietrich, SVP of Region Caribbean & Latin America West Coast for Hamburg Süd, Vino Kumar, Director (Americas) - Operations & Logistics at CMA CGM, Hernan Salazar, WCSA Planning Manager for MSC and Mario Veraldo, MD, Mexico & Middle America at Maersk Line. The Caribbean Shipping Association (CSA) will also be represented by Juan Carlos Croston, Vice President.
Ocean carriers will use the Panama Canal expansion to "reap much-needed synergies by combining east-west and north-south liner networks, using larger tonnage optimised via transhipment," says industry consultant Michael Kaasner Kristiansen, former Head of Operations for Maersk Line for Latin America & Caribbean. The first stage of the changes will be completed in the 2nd quarter of 2017 when the big three new east-west alliances – 2M with Hyundai, The Ocean Alliance and The Alliance – finalise the deployment of their new liner networks.
Writing ahead of this year's conference, where he moderates a session on transhipment trends and port hubs of the future, Mr. Kristiansen notes that "systematic capacity management, deployment optimization and network synergies offer significant upsides" to a straitened shipping sector. Carrier consolidation is fuelling the trend towards bigger tonnage on Americas trades - witness the Ocean Alliance's recent announcement that it will deploy 18,000 TEU vessels on the Transpacific - but this coincides with a period of low to no trade growth. Inevitably, the upshot will be fewer liner services, says Mr. Kristiansen, and "larger but fewer business opportunities" for ports and terminals.
Understanding how 'big ships, big carriers and big network synergies' will impact regional port and terminal operations – and investment – will be a key part of the debate this year, with views from some of the biggest global and regional terminal operators, including APM Terminals, Grupo Mexgal, Port of Cartagena, Ports America, PSA, SSA Mexico, TC Mariel Cuba and Ultramar.
Shippers and 3PLs will also have their say on the broader supply chain impact, with guest speakers including Chris Brown, International Logistics Analyst for Brazilian protein giant JBS and Bill Rooney, VP Trade Management - North America for Kuehne + Nagel, the world's largest ocean freight buyer.
Returning to Mexico for the first time in a decade, the 2.5 day event will also feature two country panels exploring the contrasting fortunes of Mexico and Brazil, a special Cold Chain focus and an in-depth look at the impact of digitisation, automation and IoT on regional supply chain, shipping and port operations.