BMI believes that Singapore is wise to look ahead to the long term by aiming to consolidate all its container port activities in one place, and confirms the city-state's position as a world leader in terms of maritime planning. Whether this will be sufficient to see the port remain as relevant in the face of future Chinese ports development as it has been historically remains to be seen, however.
Singaporean transport minister, Lui Tuck Yew, announced at a recent event that the small Asian country would be consolidating all of its container shipping terminals at Tuas in the long term, with the aim of opening the first berths there in around 10 years. According to Lui, Tuas was chosen because of its 'sheltered deep waters and proximity to major industrial areas and international shipping routes'.
The port's city terminals at Tanjong Pagar, Keppel and Brani will be moved and merged at Tuas, with the leases for the current sites due to end in 2027. The terminal of Pasir Panjang will also be merged at Tuas; BMI notes that PSA International, the Singapore ports operator, continues to invest in this facility. It was at the launch for phases three and four of the terminal that the move to Tuas was announced. The expansion will comprise 15 new berths, an automated container yard and unmanned, rail-mounted gantry cranes. These cranes, along with those deployed at the berths, will operate on electricity.
|Port of Singapore Container Throughput, 2008-2016 (TEUs)|
BMI notes that the move to Tuas is a brave one, but underlines the commitment Singapore has to its shipping sector. It is a major source of economic wealth for the small state, which has throughout its history been a major trading post. This has been challenged in recent years, however, by the rise of Chinese ports such as Shanghai, which has overtaken Singapore as the largest container-handling facility in the world; other Chinese ports are also moving up the top 10. They have been expanding their facilities, meaning that they are able to take ever larger ships, and thus becoming less reliant on feeder vessels for the export of their goods. This has challenged Singapore's role as a hub between China's manufacturing and the rest of the world.
Through coming up with a long-term strategy Singapore will hope to continue to compete. The new port complex will be like a blank slate for the country, leaving it free to put in state-of-the art infrastructure. By consolidating all terminals in one complex it will take away the current need that exists for road haulage to take transhipment volumes from one terminal to another, making it more efficient. The deep waters at the site, meanwhile, will mean that it can accommodate the largest container ships afloat. Further, the new port will nearly double the port's capacity from the current 35mn twenty-foot equivalent units (TEUs) per annum to 65mn TEUs. Last year the Port of Singapore handled 29.94mn TEUs.