Tuas Port opening: Higher efficiency, lower carbon footprint justify higher operational costs, say companies

The opening of Tuas port is timely as it helps free up more yard capacity in Pasir Panjang Terminal. ST PHOTO: LIM YAOHUI

SINGAPORE - "A shining example to the world that operates in near darkness at night" is how Mr Jeremy Nixon, chief executive of global container shipping company Ocean Network Express (One), has described the new Tuas Port.

Unlike other port terminals, where bright lights illuminate container and shipyards at night, Tuas Port's yard areas have no mast lights.

Once containers are placed on landing pads, automated driverless machines move them to where they need to be in the dark, using motion sensors and cutting down on electricity use.

This is but one of many features of the new Tuas Port that shipping lines and exporters said keep Singapore ahead of its competitors.

The increased efficiency and smaller carbon footprint more than justify Singapore's higher operational costs, they added.

Ahead of Tuas Port's official opening on Thursday, several shipping lines and exporters said they have already been working with operator PSA in the last year to iron out kinks and make container movement more efficient there.

Mr Lars Kastrup, chief executive of Singapore shipping company Pacific International Lines, said he is confident the port's productivity will soon be comparable with Pasir Panjang Terminal, with more than 25 to 30 container moves per hour.

"As Tuas Port opens in phases, the container traffic currently split among the various city terminals will be migrated and consolidated, reducing inter-terminal transfer time and domestic emissions," he added.

"This would help bring down cost through economies of scale and improved efficiencies."

ONE's Mr Nixon noted that Tuas Port is also prepared for the mega container vessels of the future, with a quay length of 26km.

Today, the largest container ships can already exceed 350m in length. They are expected to exceed 400m in 20 years.

"Tuas Port is future-proofed for the next generations of mega container vessels. Supported by intelligent systems and automated equipment, Tuas Port will take terminal operations to the next level of efficiency," he said.

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Mr Laurent Olmeta, French container company CMA CGM's Asia-Pacific CEO, said it is still early days for companies to have a "full experience" of Tuas Port, but that CMA CGM has already received some 30 vessel calls there since November last year.

The opening of Tuas Port is timely as it helps free up more yard capacity in Pasir Panjang Terminal, he added.

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But Ms Geraldine Chin, chairman and managing director of ExxonMobil Asia Pacific, said Tuas Port is situated further away from ExxonMobil's manufacturing facilities.

The company is making use of the initial phase of Tuas operations to work with government agencies and industry stakeholders to improve the connection between its plants and Tuas Port, including the barge connection between Tuas Port and Jurong Island Terminal.

This should also help reduce emissions relative to transporting exports by lorries on the road, she added.

Associate Professor Yap Wei Yim, head of Singapore University of Social Sciences' maritime management minor programme, said Singapore's key advantage remains its location, which allows it to serve three main markets: the east-west trade route between Asia and Europe, the transshipment trade in the region, and the fast-growing intra-Asian container trade.

Even now, before the completion of Tuas Port, Singapore is already the dominant port-of-call, leading its competitors of Tanjung Pelepas and Port Klang in Malaysia by a large margin, he added.

"Tuas mega port should be able to cater to the needs of the container port and shipping community. I am also confident that development in phases will allow policymakers and stakeholders to accommodate future changes, should the growth path of traffic volume exhibits a higher trajectory," he said.

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