27 June – 3 July 2001

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Freeport activity could drop by 75% if CMA CGM pulls out

Shortly after the Malta Freeport conceded to union demands for substantial raises for port workers, it now appears as though it stands to lose one of its best customers – CMA CMG.

Rumours have surfaced that the French global carrier is in the process of negotiating with Britain’s P&O Ports over taking a major stake in the Cagliari International Container Terminal in Sardinia.

CMA CGM is reportedly interested in acquiring a 70.3 per cent stake held by TCP, an Italian company that is 50 per cent-owned by P&O Ports.

However, if CMA CGM does emerge as the controller of the Sardinian terminal, speculation has arisen that it would move the bulk of its estimated 750,000 TEUs a year in transshipment traffic that it currently handles the Malta Freeport to the Sardinia installation.

Given the fact that last year the Malta Freeport handled just over 1,030,000 TEUs, CMA CGM’s pullout of 750,000 TEUs could prove disastrous for its activity levels, if new business to replace that provided by CMA CGM were not found.

In fact, such a loss of business could bring activity levels at the Freeport back down to levels last witnessed in 1994.

Asked to comment on the impact on the Freeport such a move would have, the Freeport has chosen to remain silent on the issue so far.

Zim Israel Navigation, a probable partner of CMA CGM on several routes, and Norasia Line, are also expected to move to Cagliari, which is said to be offering attractive berthing and crane rates.

P&O Ports had acquired its stake in the Sardinian facility three years ago, but has failed to win any business and risks losing its 30-year operating concession if it does not sign up customers by the end of June. The company sees the sale of an equity stake as a way to attract and secure long-term business.

The Business Times, Network House, Vjal ir-Rihan San Gwann SGN 07
Tel: (356) 382741-3, 382745-6 | Fax: (356) 385075 | e-mail: editorial@networkpublications.com.mt