The course of development of a port or port terminal usually undergoes phases, which also indicate its age. Evolution from a traditional break-bulk cargo port to a specialized unitized cargo port may be gradual. However, it is distinguishable into qualitative changes that take place in specific periods throughout the overall life of the port. These phases are as follows:
Phase 1: Traditional General Cargo Flow
A port with break-bulk or packaged bulk cargo terminals, such as for bagged grains or petroleum in barrels.
Phase 2: Break-Bulk Cargoes
When breakbulk cargo flow exceeds an economically acceptable limit, these cargoes are transported in bulk form and the port develops a special bulkcargo terminal. At the same time, the breakbulk berths are increased, to accommodate the higher demand.
Phase 3: Unit Loads
Unit loads start being carried on conventional vessels in small quantities in units such as palettes, containers, or packaged lumber. At the same time, break-bulk cargo flows, particularly those of bulked breakbulk cargoes, start diminishing to levels that require separation of cargo terminals for various cargo categories.
Phase 4: Multipurpose Terminal
Unitized cargoes on specialized vessels start appearing in quantities that do not yet require development of a specialized terminal. Thus, a multipurpose terminal is created in which break-bulk cargo traffic is diminished, although unitized cargo is also handled. At the same time, the specialization of dry bulk cargo terminals continues.
Phase 5: Specialized Terminal
With an increase in unit loads beyond certain levels, specialized cargo terminals are created for handling containers, packaged lumber, and Ro-Ro. The multipurpose terminal of phase 4 is converted into a specialized terminal, with the addition of specialized cargo handling equipment. Break-bulk general cargo is reduced further.
It should be noted that in normal situations, the transition from phase 3 to phase 5 should progress through phase 4, so as to provide an opportunity to the port to increase unitized cargo traffic to volumes that will enable economically feasible development of a specialized terminal in phase 5. Moreover, in the event that a port has entered phase 3 of its development, care should be taken to avoid creating additional general cargo berths.