Supply excess caused by opening the New Port in Busan has brought the fierce competition between container terminal operators to keep the more volume, which resulted container terminal operators to be faced with serious financial difficulties through competitively lowering the prices especially for terminal operators in the north port. The competitiveness for the north port has been getting worse due to the deteriorated facilities as well as the lower depth of water below 16 meters, therefore the volume has been also continuously moving out to the new port. The container volume in Busan port has ranked 5th in the world until 2013, however Busan port dropped to 6th placer behind Ningbo-Zhoushan port in China in 2014. Now the serious consideration to protect the port industry as a national industry is desperately in need.
The purpose of this paper is to review the status of the serious deficit that north port is currently facing, and to suggest 5 alternatives to overcome the financial troubles in north port as below.
First is the port concentration by container terminal operators’ integration. The grand integration with many small sized terminal operators is expected to improve the competitiveness and profitability through the economy of scale. Actually there have been already 2 integrations in the north port, one is the newly consolidated company of BIT(Busan International Terminal) in December 2013, and the other is KBCT merging with UTC in January 2014.
Second is the functional change in Busan port. New port is specialized for mega container ships by the most modern facilities together with the sufficient depth of water over 16 meters while the north port is focused on the small & medium sized ships as feeder vessels for intra Asia. North port is also to be developed as a hub port for transshipment by well connecting new port and north port.
Third is the reintroduction of tariff approval system. The tariff in the north port has been seriously dropped due to the fierce competition between container terminal operators to keep the more volume. The price at about krw100K/TEU in 2004 has been decreased into around krw45K/TEU in 2014. The price in Singapore, Shanghai and Ningbo is currently over krw100K/TEU, and it is even at krw178K/TEU in Yokohama Japan which are all much above the price in Korea. Therefore, to minimize the price gap, tariff approval system is urgently necessary by setting the legal basis forcing container terminal operators to keep the approved price strictly without a price cutting competition, and then the tariff is to be gradually stabilizing.
Forth is change the fixed rental system into volume based rental. This may mitigate the excessive competition, and then eventually stop the container terminal operators’ competitively lowering the prices.
Lastly, flexibility in port manpower structure. The strong competition for container terminal operators comes from the competitive cost structure as well as the qualified service which are all brought under the circumstance of good allocation of manpower by the flexibility of manpower structure.