Tuas port needs to have edge over rivals

Machines carry out landfilling works on newly reclaimed land at Tuas Terminal Phase 1 on April 18, 2019.
Machines carry out landfilling works on newly reclaimed land at Tuas Terminal Phase 1 on April 18, 2019. ST PHOTO: LIM YAOHUI

I agree with Dr Maliki Osman, Senior Minister of State for Defence and Foreign Affairs, that Singapore's port faced tremendous challenges in the past, as it will in the future (Sea storms that could have cut short Singapore's port history, April 24).

When Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong first announced the move of the port to Tuas at the National Day Rally in 2013, little did we expect that Malaysia would plan a ship-to-ship transfer hub in Johor Baru port waters.

The facility, dubbed the biggest in the world, is expected to be ready in 2021, and cut costs for shipping firms.

Such developments are worrisome.

Will Tuas be able to retain the title of being the world's second-busiest port in the face of regional rivals, which are investing heavily in their port capabilities?

The massive outlay of capital in constructing such a mega port itself is a huge gamble. Any major change of shipping routes or technology can deal a serious blow to this massive project.

Should it become a white elephant one day, for whatever reason, it would incur further costs in dismantling it.

To survive, our port must assiduously build robust maritime and other ecosystems such that ships will want to come here not just for their shipping needs, but also for other services, such as medical services, education and international meetings.

The Tuas port must also, like our current port, be efficient and clean so that ship captains might be able to persuade their paymasters to choose Tuas over others.

Phillip Tan Fong Lip

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 02, 2019, with the headline 'Tuas port needs to have edge over rivals'. Print Edition | Subscribe