Help measures for container lines on the way: Transport Minister Khaw

Transport Minister Khaw Boon Wan said about US$17 million would be saved annually for container lines.
Transport Minister Khaw Boon Wan said about US$17 million would be saved annually for container lines.ST PHOTO: ALPHONSUS CHERN

SINGAPORE - The Maritime and Port Authority of Singapore (MPA) and PSA Corporation will roll out a suite of  "help measures" to tide container lines through the difficult times, said Transport Minister Khaw Boon Wan on Wednesday (Jan 13).

Starting Jan 15, the MPA will grant an additional 10 per cent concession on port dues for container vessels calling at the Port of Singapore, if they are carrying out cargo works with a port stay of not more than five days.

The concession, to be in place for one year, will be granted on top of existing port dues concessions such as the Green Port Programme incentives and the 20 per cent concession first introduced in 1996 - all of which are expected to "amount to savings of about US$17 million annually for container lines", he said.

"Perhaps a modest sum, but it is another reflection of the Singapore Government's consistent commitment to stand with and help our partners through challenging times," added Mr Khaw, who is also Coordinating Minister for Infrastructure.

 

Speaking at the annual Singapore Maritime Foundation New Year cocktail reception at ParkRoyal on Pickering, Mr Khaw also said that PSA is "putting in significantly more resources" to help its customers through this period.

This includes its efforts to improve vessel productivity at the port and optimise network planning activities to lower operational costs.

Mr Khaw noted that for many shipping firms, 2015 had been "yet another challenging year".

"Demand for shipping remained weak due to sluggish trade growth. Coupled with an oversupply in tonnage, freight rates have stayed low," he said.

Citing advance estimates, Mr Khaw noted that the Port of Singapore put in a mixed performance. While Singapore remained the world's top bunkering port, with the volume of bunkers sold in 2015 up 6.5 per cent on the previous year, container throughput contracted 8.7 per cent to 30.9 million twenty-foot equivalent units (TEUs).

"This was largely caused by the overall slump in Asia-Europe volumes, and compounded by developments such as the rebalancing of volumes across alliances, and an increase in direct sailings to lower bunker prices," he said.

But Mr Khaw also gave his assurance that the Government, for its part, will continue "to keep working on the long-term development of Maritime Singapore".

The MPA, for instance, will "press ahead in its collaboration with PSA to further raise the efficiency of our port operations by investing in automation and other new technologies", he said.

It will also develop a manpower plan for the Sea Transport Sector under the SkillsFuture framework, as part of its efforts to strengthen Singapore's position as an international maritime centre.

tsjwoo@sph.com.sg