Report Suggests Singapore's Container Port Lags Behind Malaysia and China in Productivity

Thursday July 30, 2015

Recent statistics released by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) International Transport Forum (ITF) suggest that berth productivity at Singapore's container port is lagging behind regional counterparts in Malaysia and China, Business Times reports.

Singapore's container port reportedly moved an average of 66 containers per hour per ship in 2014, compared Shanghai, which is said to have averaged at about 167 container moves per hour per ship, the highest average in the world for 2014.

The OECD ITF report also showed that Singapore's container movements came up short when compared to Shenzhen which averaged 133 in 2014, Hong Kong which averaged 74, and Malaysia's Port Klang which averaged 69, and the Port of Tanjung Pelepas which averaged 81.

In terms of ship turnaround time, the data also showed that Singapore appeared slower than its counterparts with an average of 1.38 days to handle a ship, compared to averages of 1.09 days at Tanjung Pelepas and 0.85 days at Port Klang.

However, maritime analysts reportedly argue that the newly presented efficiency data may not represent the whole picture and say that factors like service quality, and the type and size of vessels traffic that it handles factor into the measurement of a port's of efficiency and competitiveness as well.

"You have to be very careful when comparing berth productivity and ship turnaround time data, because more often than not, you're not comparing apples with apples," said Neil Davidson, a senior analyst for Drewry Shipping Consultants Limited (Drewry).

Complex Operations

Further, analysts cited the complex operations required at Singapore's port due to its role as a transhipment hub, compared to the more straightforward operations at Shanghai, Shenzhen and Hong Kong - which are said to be mostly a gateway ports - as a reason for its lower efficiency numbers.

While Tanjung Pelepas and Port Klang are also transhipment ports, analysts argue that they serve a narrower clientele than Singapore, which has a more diverse and numerous client base.

"Considering the more dedicated nature of these transshipment terminals, one would expect them to be more productive than Singapore, so it could actually be considered an accomplishment of Singapore that the gap is not larger," said Olaf Merk, ports and shipping administrator with OECD ITF.

"Customers seem to be going to Singapore because of the last-minute changes and connections that can be made there to maintain total network integrity. This could go at the cost of terminal productivity."

Analysts also noted that Singapore's productivity figures will likely improve when the new terminal at Tuas is completed and operational.

The OECD ITF report also suggests that ports may need a "productivity revolution" as ship sizes continue to grow.

In March, Maersk Line CEO Soren Skou said port productivity has not kept pace with the growth in ship size.