Much larger vessels have entered the Europe-Far East trades, it said. "The pressure on water depth, quay length, port access and the consignment sizes handled by terminals, represent major issues that must be addressed to maintain competitive position," the OSC study said.
"The container shipping market is in crisis, with severe overcapacity resulting in lines recording huge losses. The position of the lines as customers and as users of north European container terminals is generating considerable uncertainty.
"Though the outlook in the short term remains uncertain, due to macro-economic issues in the Euro zone, long-term prospects are strong, and demand growth will be positive in the forecast period. There will be far-reaching changes in terminal ownership, use and related investments," said the OSC study.
But north European container ports have bounced back from a downturn, said the OSC analysts citing a demand increase of 22 per cent since 2009 recession.
The study, entitled North European Container Ports Market to 2025, discusses forces driving terminal development, noting that total demand reached 57.9 million TEU in 2011, with the eastern Baltic region seeing strong growth.
Due to this and other factors, the structure of regional demand is changing. Transshipment demand is increasing; and deep-sea calling patterns are being altered, with the emergence of direct deep-sea services in the eastern Baltic, and associated scope for transshipment hubbing within the region, the authors of the study concluded.
Furthermore, inland transport costs are increasing rapidly and this factor - combined with increasing environmental pressures - is highlighting the need for intermodal transport solutions. Supporting investment programmes are becoming critical, and intermodal contractual commitments are often at the centre of investment planning, OSC said.