Skip to main content

Capacity to Grow: Transport Infrastructure Needs for Future Trade Growth

Go to report

The 2015 International Transport Forum Outlook projects a four-fold increase in international freight traffic with much of this growth involving imports and exports to regions of the world that have insufficient transport infrastructure. Increasing international trade will pose unprecedented challenges to infrastructure development, funding and management. 

This two-part project will use the international freight modelling capacity of the International Transport Forum to explore the range of future transport infrastructure needs under various scenarios and describe potential funding models that could meet these. 

The International Transport Forum’s global freight model takes projected volumes of trade in monetary terms and converts these to tonne-units differentiated by commodity class. It then optimises the allocation of these across a global transport network model according to mode- and infrastructure-specific speed and dwell-time coefficients. The first part of this project will further convert these tonne-units to an estimate of vehicle units (e.g. containers, trucks, train wagons, air and waterborne vessels). This will provide a rough estimate of the magnitude of vehicle flows that future infrastructure networks will have to absorb according to trade growth projections. 

The second part of this exercise will investigate capacity constraints in global ports and investigate the implications of these for future trade growth. Specifically, this part of the project will: 

  • Tally existing estimates of port container handling capacity (current, design capacity and potential future capacity additions) based on available surveys from maritime consultancies and in-house assessment on current state of the art of new port development projects. This assessment will be differentiated according to regions; in some regions there is terminal overcapacity, whereas terminal capacity is already saturated in other regions. Many container terminals expand in stages to accommodate growing demand. Thus the relation of terminal expansion to projected trade flows is iterative with feedback loops that need to be taken into account.
  • Model future international freight flows accounting for the above capacity constraints. 
  • Explore potential coping strategies (port expansion, modified trading patterns, new port construction).
  • Describe various funding models that could be deployed to handle new capacity investment.