The Mediterranean is an especially appropriate area for transport trade. The main global maritime route crosses the Mediterranean Sea from Suez to Gibraltar; one of the centers of the global economy is situated on the Northern shore of the Mediterranean; and the EU is opening its doors to new members. Moreover, emergent economies are located in the Northeast connected with the Black Sea and Africa. They have a potential of development and strong links with European economies through Mediterranean seaports. The optimal routing decision tends to be cargo shipping through hubs, as the hub charge has decreased and its efficiency improved . All of these aspects are catalysts for the growth of the well-defined seaports on the Northern shore, in order to establish a competence between them, to attract and generate new traffic and to develop new harbors on the Southern shore coast.

Harbors like Ceuta, Tangier, Djen-Djen, Bizerte, Damietta or Port Said are a new generation in the Mediterranean and will surely change the map of transport and economy in the South Mediterranean. A clever view will create a similar land bridge with Africa and the Mediterranean Sea, but unfortunately it will still take some decades.

In reality, competence between harbors is not only good for the users of their facilities; but it is also good for the whole logistic line, from inland dry ports to all seaports that have been connected by the logistic lines. We can now begin to talk about competence between logistic lines, which implies alliance between economies and territories, and between modes of transport and harbors. The sustainability of a seaport is nowadays not only in its efficiency but it also lies in the productivity of the whole logistical chain. The relation between Spanish seaports such as Barcelona, Tarragona and Valencia and Italian seaports like Genoa, Livorno, Civitaveccia, Salermo or Palermo, is a very good example of the way short sea shipping can change the aspect of transport whithin the continent. It enhances the necessity of a growth in size and in the same direction between harbors.

As these chains are becoming more complex, more intricate distribution structures are needed to tailor final products in all their facets to the customer’s preferences, as Zhaojian Liu et al.5 pointed in their research. They propose options to introduce an integrated collaborative planning system where producers, retailers and logistic service providers work closely together through the sharing of information about production, sales and logistics.

To this increasing complexity, the transport logistic chain must also add environmental and security aspects that play a very important role in the definition of the whole transport system. It may leave out of the line the seaports that will not adapt their characteristics to international regulation on these matters.

In short words, it can be concluded, that the complexification and changes in international trade have taken place at a very fast velocity at a global scale. The time needed to carry a good from one part of the world to another has declined, and at the same time, transport capacities have considerably grown. A ship can nowadays transport the same amount of cargo as carried by

40 ships 50 years ago, and stays only 3 days in the harbor, in contrast with the 12 days previously needed.

The growth of seaports is not enough to adapt to the accelerated rate of economical growth, but new concepts, such as logistic chains, have to be applied to understand the new relationship between peoples, territories, economies and movement of goods. The relations between the different modes of transport have also changed in the design of a harbor. There is no sustainable harbor without space to connect with a main railway, or with a logistic area inside or close by a natural part of the seaport.

Dry ports are becoming new pieces in the logistic chain, giving new opportunities to inland areas, and connecting harbors that will never be connected by sea, creating new corridors or land bridges between harbors.

The movement of all these amounts of goods, efficiently, in time, safe, and controlled, is impossible without the support of the new communication technologies, in a world where the international trade rules are not always easy.

The Mediterranean Sea transport trade is not an exception but has its own particularities, where many asymmetries are still making differences between territories, and where many considerable changes in the near future will draw new maps of relations between growing economies. Long-term strategies cannot avoid these realities, and have to play with the political uncertainties that remain in the region.

Western Mediterranean – Competition Pushes Expansion

Located on the Moroccan side of the Straits of Gibraltar, the Port of Tanger Med is two ports in one, located on the crossroads of north–south and east–west maritime routes, which together carry about 20 percent of global trade. Is the largest port in North Africa and soon may be the premier port for the entire Mediterranean Sea. With the June opening of APMT’s $800 million Tangier Med 2 Extension, the port arguably now has the largest container capacity (TEUs) in the Mediterranean and is positioning itself to become a key transhipment hub for Maersk Line and its alliance partners. The Tangier Med 2 has two new container terminals – TC3 and TC4 – with an additional 6 million TEU capacity.

Port Said, Egypt and Tangier Med, Morocco are the leading African ports in the Mediterranean region; Tangier Med recorded the world’s highest absolute increase in its index during the first decade of its operations since 2007. Both Port Said and Tangier Med provide extensive trans- shipment services, benefiting from their geographical position and private sector investments from major global port operators

The Spanish Port of Valencia is the largest in the Mediterranean (although Piraeus is positioned to overtake them this year), tallying over 5 million TEUs in 2018. Valencia’s strategy is to be one of the ‘last’ three ports for ocean carriers to and from Europe – one of the essential transhipment hubs for transiting ocean carriers – but the port’s operating at near full capacity. So, to keep up

with port competition from Tangier Med and now Piraeus, Valencia is embarking on building a fourth container terminal.

In 2018 the Port of Algeciras, located on the Spanish side of the Strait of Gibraltar, handled 4.77 million TEUs in 2018. The Port consists of two main facilities: the APM Terminals Algeciras and Total Terminal International Algeciras. The Algeciras can handle 18,000 TEU boxships but is looking to upgrade the port’s facility. Recently the Port Authority of Algeciras (APBA) announced it would invest 233 million euros ($259 million) over the next four years with 62 million euros ($69 million) coming in 2020. Perhaps the most important items in the plan is increasing the draft of the Juan Carlos I dock from 17 meters to 18.5 meters and the construction of new roads and esplanades to meet the demand for ro/ro traffic in the port, as well as the acquisition of a new container scanner, within the Container Security Initiative (CSI).

Northern Mediterranean Ports

The northern Mediterranean ports like Spain’s Barcelona, France’s Marseille or the Italian ports of Genoa and La Spezia are integrated into the European hinterland through rail and road networks. For the most part, container volumes have continued to rise. For example, the Spanish Port of Barcelona tallied just over 3.4 million TEUs in 2018 compared to just about 3 million in 2017. And the French Port of Marseille-FOS was over 1.4 million TEUs comparted to 1.36 million in 2017. The Italian Port of La Spezia also posted an increase, improving to 1.54 million TEUs in 2018 from 1.47 million TEUs a year earlier. The only port to post a decline was the Italian Port of Genoa (Savano- Vado) which notched 2.6 million TEUs down from 2.62 million in 2017. In the case of Genoa some of the reduced tally was the result of the August 14, 2018 collapse of the Morandi Bridge in Genoa– a main connector for the port.The bridge was successfully completed in the spring of 2020 and is to be set to open to traffic in July of 2020

Many ports in the world, including the port of Limassol in Cyprus, seek to become accredited transhipment hubs. This means that large shipments from other Mediterranean and Black Sea countries could be consolidated and sent to Cyprus, from where they could be efficiently distributed to various nearby ports, e.g. in Egypt, and other countries in the Middle East, using smaller vessels and SSS operations. To be a successful transshipment hub, a port should be able to plan its operations precisely and ensure relevant information are available to visiting ships.

The role of Cyprus as an international shipping centre was established about 55 years ago. Cyprus has managed to attract shipping companies due to its excellent maritime infrastructure, and a high level of expertise, particularly in the fields of surveying, ship brokering and maritime insurance. Today, the Cyprus Registry is classified as the 22nd  largest merchant fleet globally and the 3rd largest fleet in the European Union, with approximately 900 ocean going vessels of a gross tonnage exceeding 49 million tons3. It is estimated that approximately 4% of the world’s fleet and around 20% of global third party ship management activities are controlled from Cyprus. For the companies established in Cyprus, around 87% are controlled by Cypriot and EU interests4. The island’s ports have developed purpose-built container terminals and Cyprus is one of the first countries of the Eastern Mediterranean to use specialized gantry cranes. Moreover, the island is now considered one of the most important cruise centers and transportation hubs in the region.

The Cypriot Government’s vision is to develop initiatives that will further expand Cyprus’s role as a communication bridge between the European Union and the countries of Middle East, such as Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon. In addition, the interest of major shipping organizations in using hub ports in the region has increased the need for upgrading the infrastructure and for providing more cost- efficient service.

Transhipment Hubs

The Mediterranean has nine major transhipment hubs but two stand out because of their central location, the island of Malta’s Marsaxlokk port and Gioa Tauro in Southern Italy. Both are located in the central Mediterranean – a crossroads of major trade lanes. Marsaxlokk posted 3.3 million TEUs in 2018 up over the 3.1 million a year earlier. Conversely, Gioa Tauro lost ground, tallying 2.3 million TEUs in 2018 from 2.45 million TEUs in 2017.

Despite their enviable locations, both transhipment hubs are facing challenges. Back in May, Malta Freeport announced that Maersk and MSC plan to reduce their operations at Freeport, relocating to Tanger Med and to Egypt’s Port Said. The terminal operator said the move might cut their business by up to 35%. While Maersk is expected to retain a presence and other carriers are poised to increase, the move illustrates the tenuous existence of hub ports without a major cargo catchment area attached.

In April, Gio Tauro became 100% controlled by the MSC Group as Contship Italia sold its stake to TIL – MSC’s terminal arm. MSC said it would invest 120 million euros ($133 million) for new equipment and capital works to help boost the annual throughput to 4 m TEUs within two years.While the ports of Marsaxlokk and Gioa Tauro are fighting to retain market share, the Greek Port of Piraeus has emerged as one of the Med’s key hubs. (7)

In 2018 Piraeus hit 4.9 million TEUs up nearly 900,000 from 2017. The key to the port’s turnaround was the investment by COSCO. In 2016 COSCO Shipping acquired a 51% stake in Piraeus Port Authority PPA. Under the COSCO aegis the port authority fortunes have flourished. Profits for the first half of 2019 were up by about 20% compared to the same period in 2018. And under the terms of the agreement should COSCO invest at least $330 million in the port by 2022, it will be eligible to up its stake by another 16%.

Recently, Greece’s Port Planning and Development Committee granted approval of an investment master plan submitted by PPA which would open the way for $670 million in infrastructure upgrades at the port. Although a proposed new 4th container terminal was not approved by the committee, the issue is not dead. The goal of the PPA is to bring the TEU capacity from the existing 7 million TEUs to 10 million TEUs – potentially making it the largest box port in the Mediterranean.