Surge in container and cargo throughputs at S'pore port

The number of containers handled at the Port of Singapore rose 1.6 per cent from May last year to 2.665 million last month, the first year-on-year rise in 15 months and 5.4 per cent higher than April's figures.
The number of containers handled at the Port of Singapore rose 1.6 per cent from May last year to 2.665 million last month, the first year-on-year rise in 15 months and 5.4 per cent higher than April's figures. ST PHOTO: MARK CHEONG

Total container and cargo throughputs at the Port of Singapore last month hit levels not seen in more than a year.

The number of containers - known as 20ft equivalent units - rose 1.6 per cent from May last year to 2.665 million. It was the first year- on-year rise in 15 months and 5.4 per cent higher than April's figures.

Total cargo throughput in May was up as well, rising 7.7 per cent from a year earlier to about 52.257 million tonnes. It was also 1.9 per cent higher than in April, according to preliminary estimates from the Maritime and Port Authority.

The rise in container throughput may be read as growth from a lower base, given declines from last year, said Mr Jason Chiang, Ocean Shipping Consultants director.

"The mega shipping alliances which had been rapidly changing are now stabilised," he added.

Last year, the alliances shifted transhipment volumes from Singapore to Malaysia's Port of Tanjung Pelapas and Port Klang.

"The impact of the shift has since ceased and the Port of Singapore is now growing in line with the overall market," added Mr Chiang.

"The reason for the growth is demand for containerised cargo from the transhipment hinterlands of Singapore - South-east Asia, South Asia - but it remains to be seen if the growth will persist for the remaining months as the volumes are susceptible to economic shocks."

But business could pick up next year, with CMA and China Shipping Container Lines shifting to PSA Singapore, he added.

May's throughput volume suggests that non-oil domestic exports for last month might be more positive than initially expected, said CIMB economist Song Seng Wun.

"While global trade volume is still below trend, economies which have reported their May trade figures, such as China, South Korea and Taiwan, posted smaller contractions than previously," he added.

Still, there is plenty of uncertainty in the larger global picture, Mr Song noted.

Last week, the World Bank cut its global growth estimate to 2.4 per cent for this year from the 2.9 per cent projected in January.

The uncertainty surrounding Brexit in the lead-up to the referendum next week will also dampen trade volume, said Mr Song.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 14, 2016, with the headline 'Surge in container and cargo throughputs at S'pore port'. Print Edition | Subscribe