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Singapore: Ships should use long waiting times for bunkering and supplies

90% of container ships can only dock late: The government of Singapore – home to one of the most important container shipping and bunker hubs in the world – is advising shipping companies to take advantage of the longer waiting times for bunker and supply processes.

Terminal operator PSA is on board with the initiative. Transport Minister Chee Hong Tat announced the plans in the parliament of the Southeast Asian city-state of Singapore.

Accordingly, the Maritime and Port Authority of Singapore (MPA) and the port operator PSA are making arrangements to refuel container ships that have to accept longer waiting times when docking and to supply them with spare parts or provisions or similar.

The background to this action is the renewed significant increase in delays in global container traffic. As is well known, many shipping companies are avoiding the Red Sea on the important East-West routes due to the attacks by the Yemeni Houthi rebels and are instead sailing around the Cape of Good Hope in South Africa. Because this lengthens the transit time, it has disrupted the structure of global schedules.

90% of ships arrive late in the port of Singapore

Chee Hong Tat said that so far in 2024, 90% of container ships calling at the world’s second-largest port will not dock on time, higher than the 2023 average of 77%. His ministry and port officials would talk to shipping companies about ships using the port’s just-in-time system for bunkering and replenishing ship supplies.

Singapore is also the world’s busiest container handling port and the world’s largest bunkering port in terms of sales volume, with a record high of 51.82 million tons of marine fuel sold in 2023.

Although the container ships take longer to load and unload cargo, which increases the waiting time for arriving ships, the anchorages are not overcrowded, he said. “Many of the ships arrive within a short time window, which exacerbates the problem as there is a ‘bunching effect’. As a result, both the demands and complexity of container handling in our port have increased,” Chee continued.

Ship tracking data from EconDB shows that in the last two weeks, outbound and inbound containers had a wait time of around 10 days. More than 250 container ships are expected next week.

Chee added that his ministry was working with port operator PSA to increase handling capacity in anticipation of more ship arrivals.

The first of three new berths at Singapore’s new mega port in Tuas was commissioned on 1 July, and two more berths will open in October and December. If ship arrivals continue, the opening of further berths could be brought forward to the end of the year. The acceleration of the commissioning of these berths is in addition to the reactivation of Singapore’s city centre terminals, Keppel and Tanjong Pagar terminals, which were shut down in June. (PL)

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Caption: The Pasir Panjang Terminal in Singapore