Source: Global Ports Holding (GPH) website; various sources of cruise passenger movements per port.
Established in 2004, Global Ports Holding GPH has become the world’s largest cruise terminal operator. Its growth is similar to the expansion in the container terminal industry two decades earlier with the setting up of global terminal operators. As the cruise industry grew and gained a critical mass of passengers, cruise terminals became increasingly profitable but complex to manage. Further, the development of new facilities, particularly at turn ports, requires capital investments that port authorities may be unable to provide. This has opened up a window of opportunity for developing portfolios in cruise terminal operations. GPH has positioned its assets in three major cruise markets:
- Mediterranean. From its initial operations in Turkey, GPH was able to acquire a portfolio comprising the most important cruise ports, particularly Barcelona (a major turn port) and Venice (a major destination).
- Caribbean. Represents the most important cruise market in the world, with perennial use. HPH was able to secure Nassau, a major hub and destination. It is unlikely that HPH will secure concessions in Florida since major cruise lines such as Royal Caribbean and Carnival are already terminal operators in hubs such as Miami and Fort Lauderdale. Still, many cruise ports in the Caribbean are potential targets for acquisition, which has already begun with Antigua and Havana.
- Southeast Asia. Represents a fast-growing market for the cruise industry. HPH established a strong foothold in Singapore, but the development of its portfolio in this region is still in its infancy. Vietnam represents a growth opportunity for the cruise industry.
Since mid-2017, GPH has been a public company listed on the London Stock Exchange. Its portfolio included a 62% majority shareholding in Barcelona, the leading cruise port in the Mediterranean Sea. Since then, GPH has announced further acquisitions (Cagliari, Ravenna, Catania, La Spezia), with greenfield (Barcelona), and operating (Dubrovnik) concessions.