SINGAPORE - Singapore's shipping throughput hit an all-time high last year, despite weak global economic activity and challenges such as the trade war between the United States and China.
A total of 37.2 million shipping containers, or twenty-foot equivalent units, were handled here last year, up 1.6 per cent from 2018.
Total cargo throughput fell slightly to 626.2 million tonnes, down from 630.1 million tonnes in 2018.
But vessel arrival tonnage - a measure of the cargo-carrying capacity of ships - increased by 2.2 per cent to 2.85 billion gross tonnes, up from 2.79 billion tonnes the year before.
The figures were announced on Monday night (Jan 13) by Senior Minister of State for Transport and Health Lam Pin Min in a speech at the Singapore Maritime Foundation (SMF) New Year cocktail reception at the Four Seasons Hotel.
He noted that 2019 was a challenging year and that global container throughput generally slowed.
New requirements for shipping companies to use low-sulphur fuel also contributed to uncertainty last year as companies did not know if compliant fuels would be available in sufficient quantities and at a quality required, Dr Lam said.
The new International Maritime Organisation (IMO) 2020 regulations, which kicked in at the start of this year, place a 0.5 per cent cap on sulphur content in fuels.
Dr Lam said the price differential between compliant fuels and cheaper high-sulphur fuel oil was an issue of much speculation.
"As part of our preparations for IMO 2020, we made clear very early on that we would be ready to supply compliant fuels to ships calling at our port," Dr Lam said.
"We laid down our regulations and, most critically, we provided advice to ships that had planned to call at the Port of Singapore come Jan 1, 2020."
He added that transparency, consistency in policy and a pro-business environment made Singapore an attractive place for leading maritime players to anchor their presence.
As an example, Dr Lam cited OneBulk, a joint venture between three established German shipping companies - Bertling, Oskar Wehr and Nordic Hamburg - which provides commercial management for ocean-going bulk carriers.
"OneBulk decided to site its new venture here as it was convinced by Singapore's value proposition and track record in the shipping industry," he said.
Dr Lam also noted several accolades that Singapore garnered last year, including being named the top maritime capital in Menon's Leading Maritime Capitals of the World report for the fourth consecutive time.
Singapore's port also topped the Xinhua-Baltic International Shipping Centre Development Index for the sixth consecutive year and received the Best Seaport in Asia award for the 31st time at the 2019 Asia Freight Logistics and Supply Chain Awards, he added.
In a statement on Monday, the Maritime and Port Authority of Singapore (MPA) said BW Group chairman Andreas Sohmen-Pao has been reappointed as chairman of the SMF for another two years, from Jan 1 this year to Dec 31, 2021.
Mr Sohmen-Pao was awarded the Public Service Transformation Star Partner Award in 2019 for his contributions to Maritime Singapore, the MPA said.