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Container and cargo throughputs fall at Port of Singapore

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THE Singapore government is rolling out more measures to help container lines cope with the challenging economic conditions, which also have contributed to a contraction in container throughput at the Port of Singapore in 2015.

THE Singapore government is rolling out more measures to help container lines cope with the challenging economic conditions, which also have contributed to a contraction in container throughput at the Port of Singapore in 2015.

"2015 was yet another challenging year for many shipping companies," said Coordinating Minister for Infrastructure & Minister for Transport Khaw Boon Wan at the Singapore Maritime Foundation New Year cocktail on Wednesday.

"Demand for shipping remained weak due to sluggish trade growth (and) coupled with an oversupply in tonnage, freight rates have stayed low," he added.

According to statistics released by the Maritime and Port Authority of Singapore (MPA), container throughput contracted by 8.7 per cent to 30.9 million TEUs (20-foot equivalent units) in 2015 over 2014. The decline outpaced two separate projections The Business Times gathered from CTI Consultancy and BMI, which respectively forecast 6-8 per cent and 2.29 per cent decreases in container throughput at the Port of Singapore for 2015. Cargo throughput has likewise dipped 1.1 per cent to 574.9 million tonnes.

MPA attributed the decline in container and cargo throughput to weak global economic conditions and structural changes in the maritime industry. More specifically, it flagged "an overall slump in Asia-Europe volumes, compounded by developments such as the rebalancing of volumes across alliances agreements, and an increase in direct sailings due to lower bunker prices".

To help the container lines cope with the challenging economic environment, MPA and PSA Corporation have worked on a suite of measures unveiled by Mr Khaw on Wednesday.

Mr Khaw described these measures as "another reflection of the government's commitment to stand with and help our partners through challenging times".

MPA will grant from January 2015 an additional 10 per cent concession on port dues for container vessels calling at the Port of Singapore, if they are carrying out cargo works with a port stay of not more than five days. The additional concession will be in place for one year, and will be granted on top of existing port dues concessions such as the Green Port Programme incentives and the 20 per cent concession first introduced in 1996. In all, these concessions are expected to amount to more than S$17 million of annual savings for container lines.

PSA is working with its customers to enhance vessel productivity at the port and optimise network planning activities such as service deployments and phasing in and out of vessels, with the aim of lowering operational costs for the container shipping companies. PSA is also actively engaging container lines seeking a long-term strategic presence in the Port of Singapore.

The Port of Singapore has turned in a glowing report card outside the disappointing container and cargo throughputs in 2015. Annual vessel arrival tonnage reached 2.5 billion gross tonnage in 2015, a 5.6 per cent year-on-year increase. Singapore remained as the world's top bunkering port in 2015, on a 6.5 per cent year-on-year expansion of bunker sales to 45.2 million tonnes.

The total tonnage of ships under the Singapore Registry of Ships (SRS) grew 4.9 per cent to 86.3 million gross tonnage compared to 2014, consolidating SRS's position as one of the top five ship registries in the world.