Transporting over 90% of the internationally traded commodities, shipping is an industry you cannot do without. Well managed port-cities generate employment, increase value, lower cost-of-trade, and attract related maritime services thereby facilitating industrial development.
Singapore tops the overall list with its business-friendly environment and location on the Asia-Europe route. Top European port-city Hamburg ranks second and beats third-place Oslo known for maritime finance and technology. Ranked fifth, Shanghai is challenging the might of fourth-placed Hong Kong.
By 2020, Singapore might still be number one as Shanghai surges to the second spot followed by Rotterdam, Oslo, and Hamburg in that order. London and Rotterdam will continue to chase Hamburg and Oslo in the battle for European maritime supremacy.
The Broader Context
Unprecedented globalization has intensified the competition between cities and countries to attract and retain the best companies and human talent. Market integration, drastic transportation-cost cuts, stronger transnational companies, rise in foreign direct investment and international trade, and increasing interdependency of various economies promote globalization.
This allows transnational maritime companies to locate different operations in separate cities/countries: headquarters in financial hubs, operations near markets, and R&D centers in knowledge cities. Availability of talented manpower and knowledge are more important than before.
Increasing urbanization shifts importance from nations to cities as talent, investors, and companies look to relocate to the best cities while cities compete to attract these. About 50% of the current world’s population lives in cities that generate 80% of the global GDP. The winner cities of the future will be those that attract:
- Science and Education
- Owners and Headquarters
- R&D in Product and Technology
- Legal, Financial, and other Expert Business Services
Indicators & Ranks
Ranks are based on five main indicators:
- Shipping Center
- Maritime Finance and Law
- Port and Logistics Services
- Maritime Technology
- Attractiveness and Competitiveness
While the first four are objective with a 22.5% weight each, the fifth is subjective with a 10% weight based completely on subjective opinions expressed by 200 industry experts from 33 countries.
- Shipping Center: Athens, Singapore, and Hamburg are the top three in this indicator. Athens has the world’s largest fleet and a strong ship-owner community. German fleet is the world’s third most valuable but ship-owners are weak because of KG financing wherein ownership is diluted among thousands of investors.
Singapore offers great business environment, proximity to Asian markets, manages the second largest fleet, and hosts numerous foreign owners. This year, the World Bank again named Singapore as the easiest city to do business.
Present ship order-book is dominated by Greece, China, America, Norway, and Brazil. Athens will continue its domination as Shanghai rises. The U.S. fleet is dispersed among numerous ports and focuses on offshore activities thereby downgrading New York.
- Maritime Finance & Law: Maritime business is a cyclical, capital-intensive, industry transporting cargo worth millions through ships that too cost millions. Finance, insurance, and legal services are a critical prerequisite.
London, Oslo, and New York are the top three. English law is most widely used in maritime dispute resolution. Plus, London hosts top insurance institutions such as Lloyd’s.
Oslo hosts two world-class ship-banks, a maritime-focused stock exchange, and numerous brokering and insurance agencies. New York is home to world’s largest maritime stock exchange and finances innumerable maritime operations. Singapore comes fourth.
III. Port Services and Logistics: As ships grow larger to transport more goods per-unit fuel, ports expand and offer cost-effective logistics services. Singapore, Hong Kong, and Rotterdam are the top three.
Business ease, effective port operations, and proximity to Asian markets propel Singapore to the top. Rotterdam is the largest European port with excellent port infrastructure and hinterland connectivity.
Shanghai has replaced Singapore as the world’s largest port and ranks fourth. Dubai’s infrastructure, logistics services, port management, and business ease place it at number five. Hong Kong and Singapore are largely transshipment hubs while Shanghai supports the surrounding manufacturing industry.
- Maritime Technology: Environmental regulations and assembling cutting-edge ships requires specialized equipment and advanced technology. Coordination between educational institutions, shipbuilders, and ship-owners makes a city a R&D hub. Oslo, Hamburg, and Tokyo are the top three.
Oslo hosts DNV GL, the world’s largest ship classification society and a top maritime R&D company. Norway is the largest (by value) shipbuilder in Europe. High labor costs forced the Norwegian and German maritime industry to develop technologically. Germany is Europe’s leading maritime equipment maker.
Japan hosts ClassNK, the world’s second largest classification society but lags because of its domestic approach. Singapore is placed fifth due to low-level human capital.
- Competitiveness and Attractiveness: Singapore is the clear winner with its business ease, stable regulatory structure, and government support. Oslo and London follow.
With the center of the global economy and international maritime industry shifting to Asia, Asian ports will dominate. Singapore will retain its apex position and Shanghai may jump to the second. Rotterdam, Oslo, and Hamburg follow. Political will may thrust Dubai to the seventh position.
Experts predict an emergence of two-three shipping super cities, one each in an 8-hour time zone viz. Europe, Asia, and America. There might also be specialization with some acting as transport ports and some as service ports.
Which part of the world are you located in and which is your nearest port? Visit our blog for more such analytical reports. For cutting-edge large scale custom metal fabrication and marine fabrication services, contact Kemplon Engineering.