Singapore port holds steady despite headwinds

The number of container boxes handled this year is expected to get a lift from CMA CGM's use of four container berths in Pasir Panjang.
The number of container boxes handled this year is expected to get a lift from CMA CGM's use of four container berths in Pasir Panjang.ST FILE PHOTO
The number of container boxes handled this year is expected to get a lift from CMA CGM's use of four container berths in Pasir Panjang.
MPA chief executive Andrew Tan
The number of container boxes handled this year is expected to get a lift from CMA CGM's use of four container berths in Pasir Panjang.
Mr Andreas Sohmen-Pao

Choppy period but cargo tonnage is up, Republic still top bunkering port

Singapore's port stayed on an even keel last year despite choppier-than-expected global economic conditions and massive structural changes in the maritime industry.

The total number of standard-sized container boxes handled was 30.9 million last year, similar to 2015's, said the Maritime and Port Authority of Singapore (MPA) in a statement yesterday.

It noted: "Singapore port held its volumes steady despite the challenges - the current poor global economic conditions and lower trade volumes, the collapse of Hanjin Shipping and the uncertainty of shifting alliances."

Total cargo tonnage handled last year rose 3 per cent over 2015's to reach 593.3 million tonnes.

Ocean Shipping Consultants director Jason Chiang noted that container box volumes would have been lower if not for an oil spill at Malaysia's Port of Tanjung Pelepas in August, which saw shipping lines, including the world's top player Maersk, divert a num- ber of ships to Singapore.

"This gave the Singapore port some upside, resulting in a flat year. Otherwise, volumes were lower every month comparing 2016 with 2015, given the slowdown in world trade," he told The Straits Times.

ALL HANDS ON DECK

2017 will be another pivotal year. The maritime industry will not only have to navigate through new geopolitical uncertainties and changes in alliance structures but also new international regulations that will come into effect this year.

MPA CHIEF EXECUTIVE ANDREW TAN

CALMER WATERS AHEAD

With some consolidation and discipline in ordering of new tonnage, and continued global economic growth, we should see a gradual improvement from the lows of last year.

MR ANDREAS SOHMEN-PAO, Singapore Maritime Foundation chairman.

That said, Mr Chiang expects volumes to pick up this year, possibly to reach levels of between 31 million and 32 million container boxes.

"CMA CGM has signed a long- term contract with PSA.

This should help things," he noted, referring to the joint venture between the shipping company and PSA Singapore Terminals to operate and use four container berths at Pasir Panjang Terminal Phases 3 and 4.

On the whole, vessel arrivals by tonnage grew 6.3 per cent to reach 2.66 billion gross tonnes, said the MPA. Container ships, bulk carriers and tankers each accounted for about 30 per cent of total vessel arrival tonnage.

Singapore also retained its spot as the world's top bunkering port last year. The total volume of ship fuel sold here rose 7.7 per cent to 48.6 million tonnes, from the 45.2 million tonnes in 2015.

The Singapore Registry of Ships maintained its growth momentum.

The total tonnage of ships under the Singapore flag climbed to 88 million gross tonnes, from 86.3 million in 2015, cementing the Republic's position as one of the top 10 ship registries in the world.

The maritime cluster contributes some 7 per cent to Singapore's economy.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 12, 2017, with the headline 'Wind not taken out of S'pore port's sails'. Print Edition | Subscribe