Jurong Port's growth not sunk by Covid-19 delays

Jurong Port is on track to hit its target throughput of 26 million tons by 2025, despite delays caused by the Covid-19 pandemic, the operator said yesterday.

Buffers are in place to cushion delays in the construction of a $200 million facility - an important feature of the port's growth plans - among other projects, business units president Saw Kok Wei said in a press statement.

Work on the facility - a ready-mixed concrete ecosystem, which will help the port save 18.5ha in land use and cut 600,000 truck trips a year - has been hampered by lockdowns earlier this year.

It is expected to be completed by 2023.

Mr Saw said: "We are still on track. There have been some delays to the project because of Covid-19 but they are nothing that we can't cope with, and they will not substantially affect our ability to achieve our targets by 2025."

Container throughput at the Republic's sea port between January and June this year remained relatively robust, dipping to 17.8 million twenty-foot equivalent units (TEUs) against 18 million TEUs from a year ago.

CONSTRUCTION SECTOR STALLED BY LOCKDOWNS

CIMB Private Banking economist Song Seng Wun said the construction sector is set to lead the country's economic recovery, but a lot depends on how quickly workers can get back to work, given the lockdowns in dormitories.

Demand for construction activities in Singapore is slowly recovering as the Republic takes baby steps towards reopening the economy, he added, noting that long-term demand in the sector has remained strong amid the pandemic.

He said: "You need all construction workers to be back at work."

Business has been down for Jurong Port, which handles up to 90 per cent of all cement and steel imported into Singapore, though the operator is optimistic that numbers will go back up by next quarter.

STRAITS TIMES GRAPHICS

Mr Saw said: "With construction effectively coming (to) a halt in the last few months, there has not been any cement coming through the port because the cement silos are full.

"They are not going out to the construction site so we've effectively had very little cement being discharged at Jurong Port since the circuit breaker started."

"But we are not in dire straits. And we still have the financial resources to carry on with the projects," he added.

Chief strategy officer Desmond Lim, who was also at an online briefing, noted "very encouraging signs (in end-August, as) some of these cement vessels have made plans to once again berth at the ports".

"We are increasingly... confident that as activities resume, albeit gradually, we will start seeing cement volumes coming through. Hopefully, in the next couple of months, they will go back to the same levels as before," he added.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 12, 2020, with the headline 'Jurong Port's growth not sunk by Covid-19 delays'. Print Edition | Subscribe