French shipping giant CMA CGM has further anchored its presence in Singapore by officially unveiling an upgrade that has doubled the capacity of the terminal it jointly runs with PSA at Pasir Panjang.
The second phase of the PSA joint venture brings total operating capacity at the CMA CGM-PSA Lion Terminal to four million standard-sized containers - double the initial capacity when the terminal started operations in July last year.
The terminal has been expanded to four mega container berths instead of two.
"It will now be able to receive not just the largest ships of the CMA CGM group but also the ships of other companies," Mr Jean-Yves Duval, senior vice-president of Asia at the CMA CGM regional office, said at the launch.
His comments came as the group's Ocean Alliance - which includes the newly-formed China Cosco Shipping, Evergreen Line and Orient Overseas Container Line - prepares to go into operations next month.
"The terminal demonstrates the commitment of the CMA CGM group to contribute to the international influence of Singapore - a strong commitment cast in stone after the acquisition of NOL."
PREFERRED PORT OF CALL
This is another exciting milestone for CMA CGM as part of the group's continuing efforts to make Singapore our main hub in the region, while reiterating the importance of Singapore to our global strategy.
MR JEAN-YVES DUVAL, senior vice-president of Asia at CMA CGM Asia regional office.
The world's No. 3 container shipping line completed its $3.38 billion buyout of Singapore's Neptune Orient Lines (NOL) last year, in one of the largest acquisitions in the industry.
The group said then that it would route more container volumes through Singapore and relocate its regional office from Hong Kong to the Republic.
Mr Duval added in an interview yesterday that, starting next month, some 28 CMA CGM services will call here each week - of which more than two-thirds are being diverted from other ports, including Port Klang in Malaysia.
"The environment (today) is much more challenging and the margins less than they used to be," he added, noting this is why the group has to work on raising productivity and servicing its customers efficiently.
"What we realised is we may have some cost in Singapore - slightly more expensive than the other countries - but those costs can easily be offset by the efficiency."
In terms of integrating NOL into its fold, Mr Duval said the group has retained all customers within NOL's APL brand, and launched 24 maritime services that saw transported volumes grow by 5 per cent in the fourth quarter last year.
"What we want to make sure whenever we acquire a company is that one plus one makes at least two, and not 1.5," he added, noting that the group's strategy is to maintain APL as a separate brand and capitalise on its customer base.
Besides relocating the regional HQ here - completed in January - CMA CGM has also set up a regional navigation and port operations centre here.
It is one of three centres supporting its fleet of more than 500 container vessels. The other centres are in Marseille in France and Miami in the United States.
Mr Duval said CMA CGM will also set up a training centre here for its Asia staff in May, in partnership with a French business school.