SINGAPORE - Singapore’s ports are currently operating at about 85 per cent of their combined maximum handling capacity, enough to meet any short-term increases in demand by shipping lines, said Senior Minister of State for Transport Chee Hong Tat on Thursday.
The ports’ capacity will increase as more berths open in Tuas Port, he said, noting that Singapore handled a record high container throughput of 37.5 million twenty-foot equivalent units, or TEUs, in 2021.
Mr Chee was responding to Mr Saktiandi Supaat (Bishan-Toa Payoh GRC), who was concerned about Singapore’s ability to cope with a normalisation of global supply chains. He asked if there was a need to ensure the ports could handle more containers as soon as 2023.
Singapore’s current maximum handling capacity per annum is 44 million TEUs, a unit of measurement that matches the standard dimensions of a container.
Mr Chee said the opening of two berths at Tuas Port in 2021 helped Singapore to cope with unexpected container volumes, and garnered the country a reputation as a port for shipping lines to catch up on their connections.
He added that “port operators are used to dealing with the ups and downs” of shipping cycles, when Mr Saktiandi asked if Singapore could run into trouble should maritime activity pick up substantially in 2023 while it is in the midst of moving operations from its terminals in Keppel, Brani and Pasir Panjang to Tuas.
“While some of the factors may point towards increases in freight volumes, there are also other factors that point in the opposite direction,” Mr Chee said, citing manufacturing as one sector that is slowing down because of “what’s happening in different parts of the world”.
Shipping volumes had increased during the pandemic, putting pressure on shipping lines and raising shipping rates. Lockdown measures led to increased demand for manufactured consumer goods, which were mostly moved in shipping containers.
Mr Chee said Singapore’s ports have also used technology, such as driverless vehicles and automated cranes, to make more efficient use of manpower. He added it is vital that employers, unions and the Government partner one another to maintain the port’s competitiveness.
Singapore’s handling capacity is expected to increase by the 2040s, going up to 65 million TEUs when Tuas Port is fully operational. Experts have said this matches what Singapore should need in 20 years, and that the phased opening of the port also gives the Government more flexibility to meet changes in demand.