Tuas Port set to be world's largest fully automated terminal

Mega port will be twice the size of Ang Mo Kio and create new jobs for workers

The new Tuas Port will use automated technology to carry out its key operations, as Singapore sets out to reinvigorate and re-imagine the maritime industry which employs 170,000 people here.

When fully completed in 2040, the mega port will be the world's largest fully automated terminal.

It will be twice the size of Ang Mo Kio, and boast features such as automated wharf and yard functions and full-electric automated guided vehicles, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said yesterday at the ground-breaking of port operator PSA's new terminal.

Located in the south-western corner of Singapore, the port will vastly ramp up Singapore's cargo capacity and create new and different jobs in spite of the automation.

Tuas Port will also be able to cater to the demands of the world's largest container ships, with 26km of deep-water berths.

Besides just handling containers, the port will have space set aside for companies to be located, a move that could improve the links between port and businesses.

"It also gives us more room to create customised logistical arrangements, for example, inter-modal sea-air cargo to take advantage of our air hub as well," said PM Lee.

The new port is crucial as the maritime industry contributes about 7 per cent of Singapore's gross domestic product.

The contribution could scale up as the new port will be able to handle 65 million twenty-foot equivalent units (TEUs) annually - almost double of last year's 36 million TEUs.

TEU is the unit of measurement for cargo capacity.

PM Lee said the move to Tuas goes beyond just having a larger terminal.

"Tuas Port is also an opportunity to peer over the horizon and rethink the future of shipping. Because the port will be on a completely greenfield site, we can design from a clean slate and make innovation and sustainability key features."

He emphasised that PSA makes "a much wider contribution to the economy than most other companies". At the same time, it needs to draw the best minds to maintain its dynamism and to match its competitors, which are also investing in automation and expanding rapidly, he added.

The mega port is being developed in four phases, with construction work on the second phase having begun in July this year. The whole project will cost over $20 billion.

Its first berths are scheduled to start operating in 2021. PSA's three city terminals at Tanjong Pagar, Keppel and Brani will move by 2027. By 2040, Pasir Panjang Terminals will be consolidated at the mega port too.

With the port's capacity almost doubling, more jobs are likely to be created despite the automation.

But Dr Loh Hui Shan, lecturer in the logistics and supply chain management programme at the Singapore University of Social Sciences' business school, explained that these are likely to be new types of jobs for which port workers may have to learn new skills and become more comfortable with technology.

Dr Loh also said Tuas Port is special as it is "starting from scratch instead of improving on a pre-existing berth".

It also opens up a lot of possibilities in terms of the sustainability of the facility, she added.

"With a new area, expansion is not really constrained by the land or the sea. You can do reclamation works, for example."

The Tuas project also has another advantage.

"We will get to experiment, using the existing sites at Pasir Panjang, for example, as test beds for new technology, before moving them over to the real operations at Tuas," she said.

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 04, 2019, with the headline Tuas Port set to be world's largest fully automated terminal. Subscribe