Port M&A intensified in 2021, according to a recent research brief which outlines the latest trends in port economics, including the COVID-induced supply chain crisis.

Theo Notteboom, Professor of Port and Maritime Economics at the University of Antwerp, writes:

Many countries around the world are confronted with a shift from the management of individual ports to the management of multi-port regions. Port authorities are thus regionally integrated or even merged and this trend has intensified in 2021. This includes ‘bottomup’ integrations such the announced merger between Belgian ports Antwerp and Zeebrugge to form the Port of Antwerp-Bruges by April 2022, the founding of the new North Sea Port in 2018 (Belgium/the Netherlands), or the corridor-based gradual integration process of the ports of Le Havre, Rouen and Paris into HAROPA. This latter development resulted in a formal merger between the respective port authorities into HAROPA in the Summer of 2021. Other port authority integration processes have been more top down, like in the case of the creation of the Italian port system authorities and the integration of Chinese port groups at provincial level. Port integration and mergers have become key strategic enablers to respond to consolidation and vertical integration in the logistics market, to increase port resilience by moving to a more diversified offer to port users, and to enhance capacity building in view of dealing with energy transition and climate change challenges faced by managing bodies of ports and broader port communities