- Singapore’s unique geographic position means that some 30% of the world’s seaborne cargoes pass through the Straits of Malacca and the city-state.
- The port’s authorities are also eyeing expansion.
- Tuas will be developed in four phases and when complete in 2040, will eventually be able to handle an additional 65M TEU over Singapore’s present handling capacity.
The city-state has stayed one step ahead of the competition because of astute planning, an emphasis on public-private partnerships, and a proactive attitude to marine trends as reported by Riviera.
Singapore’s unique geographic position means that some 30% of the world’s seaborne cargoes pass through the Straits of Malacca and the city-state.
During the pandemic, Covid-19 and rolling lockdowns struck at the heart of Singapore’s service economy, regularly disrupting the crew changes that often take place at the maritime hub.
Despite two years of pandemic-induced restrictions on trade and travel, however, Singapore has retained its pre-eminent position among global ports and managed thousands of crew changes under severe constraints to keep supply chains running.
As Maritime and Port Authority of Singapore (MPA) chief executive Quah Ley Hoon says, the port has focused on acting as a ‘catch-up port’ during supply chain disruptions during the pandemic, giving shipping lines a fallback to make up for delays elsewhere.
Road to dominance
In a list dominated by Asian ports, Singapore has officially been ranked as the world’s busiest transhipment hub.
In 2021, the port of Singapore handled a record high volume of 37.2M TEU, representing nearly 15% of the world’s total container transhipment volume.
The port’s authorities are also eyeing expansion.
Reclamation work on Phase 1 of Singapore’s Tuas Port project was recently completed and operations are set to begin on the first two berths.
At berth 414ha, Phase 1 will add an extra 20M TEU to Singapore’s annual container handling capacity.
Focus on digitalisation
Last year, port management software provider InnovezOne claimed most of the world’s 4,900 ports do not use digital technology for even basic processes, relying instead on paperwork to manage a range of services from towage to pilotage.
Disruptions to the global supply chain have exposed the frailties of existing port administrative infrastructure globally, with many ports seeing record delays and escalating costs.
To keep operations in motion, many of the worst-hit ports are attempting a rapid scale-up of digitalisation.
Singapore’s MPA has put some of its focus on improved connectivity between vessels and port authorities to boost productivity.
An MoU with Wärtsilä will see MPA adopt a new ‘just-in-time’ platform to help keep port stays shorter, allowing more vessels to berth.
Digitalisation and decarbonisation
Operators in the city-state are increasingly using big data to monitor onboard equipment and environmental performance, which will assume even greater significance when IMO’s EEXI requirements kick in next year.
Singapore’s MPA launched a US$90M decarbonisation fund with six private companies including Eastern Pacific Shipping, BHP and Ocean Network Express to establish the Singapore maritime decarbonisation centre.
A short time later, METIS Cyberspace Technology’s Singapore subsidiary opened for business in August 2021.
With local shipping companies striving to implement digitalisation and anticipating regulatory burdens, METIS’s advanced data-analytics services snared OMCS, X-Press Feeders and Petredec as clients.
“Singapore has the goal of being the centre point of decarbonisation in shipping,” says Wilhelmsen Ship Management chief executive officer Carl Schou, whose Topeka project is building two hydrogen-powered, zero-emissions vessels for the shortsea segment.
Looming EEXI regulations also affect shipowners’ fuel choices, and Singapore is increasing its focus on alternative fuels with measures to support an ammonia supply chain.
Plans are already underway that would enable the port city to develop an ammonia and bunkering infrastructure.
ABS director of sustainability strategy Panos Koutsourakis says, “Singapore has the potential to play a critical role as a strategic downstream location to receive, store, consume or bunker ammonia.”
ABS is working with Nanyang Technological University Singapore, and the Ammonia Safety and Training Institute to assess safety protocols and probe for possible gaps in the bunkering supply chain for ammonia.
The company operates an offshore lab that serves as a testbed for new energy technologies.
Currently among the world’s largest hubs for conventional bunker fuels, with annual sales close to 50M tonnes in 2020, Singapore is looking to leverage this advantage into the LNG fuel segment.
Supplier FuelLNG (a venture between Keppel O&M and Shell Eastern Petroleum) added a new bunkering vessel in the city in 2021 and reports 460 successful operations for the year, while oil major TotalEnergies was awarded a licence, becoming the third operator to supply LNG bunkers beginning in January 2022.
Sembcorp Marine is currently building a 12,000-m³ LNG bunkering vessel for Japanese operator Mitsui OSK Lines, due later this year.
When complete, this bunkering vessel – the country’s largest – will be jointly deployed by Pavilion Energy and Total.
LNG is seen as a bridging fuel in the transition away from fossil fuels as it offers a relatively quick payback time for retrofits to existing tonnage.
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