GENEVA — Inadequate freight transport infrastructure at many port facilities around the world is causing costly delays and calls for industry and public authorities to expand capacity, according to a report from the Maritime Transport Committee of the International Chamber of Commerce.

In many ports, the infrastructure “is incapable of adequately handling current container volumes,” said the study, which was released this week in conjunction with a conference of the International Association of Ports & Harbor in Shanghai. Containers are piling high in many terminals because of bottlenecks.

“Delays have serious effects on just-in-time distribution systems, which seek to reduce inventory and distribution costs,” the report said.

Moreover, delays escalate costs for importers and undermine predictability and reliability in supply chains, the survey concluded. Some of the repercussions of delays triggered by freight bottlenecks include missed berthing slots in subsequent ports and higher fuel costs.

The report also forecast that international containerized cargo movements would increase substantially and estimated that the number of 20-foot equivalent units (known in the industry as TEUs) handled by world ports will rise 8 to 10 percent per year.

In 2003, there were 281 million TEUs worldwide, the report said. The ICC expects transpacific containerized cargo in 2006 to expand 10 to 12 percent.

“World trade and commerce depend on sufficient and reliable transport services,” ICC committee chairman Cheng Eng Lua, honorary senior advisor at Neptune Orient Lines Ltd., said in a statement. “So does the economic health of individual trading nations, their businesses, their workforces and, ultimately, their citizens.”

This story first appeared in the May 27, 2005 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.

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