Testing of equipment underway at Tuas Port, first phase to open as planned in end-2021

SINGAPORE – The first two berths for vessels to dock at in Tuas Port are set to open as planned by the end of this year, a development that experts say would boost Singapore’s status as a shipping hub.

According to changes to the Immigration Act published in the Government gazette, Tuas Port will be designated as an immigration anchorage for vessels arriving in or leaving Singapore from Oct 1.

Port operator PSA Singapore told The Straits Times that works on key infrastructure, such as the berths and yard, terminal gate, buildings and maintenance bases are progressing at pace.

The initial batches of advanced port equipment have already arrived at Tuas Port and testing is underway, it said.

These equipment include automated rail mounted gantry cranes, double-trolley quay cranes and automated guided vehicles, PSA added. The machines assist in port operations, such as shifting containers.

The mega port will comprise four phases in total, and cost well over $20 billion.

When fully completed in the 2040s, it will be the world’s largest fully automated terminal, boasting features such as automated wharf and yard functions.

It will have deepwater berths spanning 26km in total quay length. Longer quay lengths allow for ports to take in larger container ships.

Tuas Port will be able to handle 65 million twenty-foot equivalent units (TEUs) annually, almost double of the 36.9 million TEUs that Singapore handled in 2020. TEU is the unit of measurement for cargo capacity.

The Maritime and Port Authority of Singapore said it is on track complete reclamation works for Phase 1 at Tuas Port by December, and that works for the second phase is progressing as scheduled.

Phase 1, which the first two berths are part of, is expected to be fully built by 2027. It will comprise a total of 21 berths handling 20 million TEUs a year.

Senior Minister of State for Transport Chee Hong Tat told ST that the increased capacity with the opening of Tuas Port will strengthen Singapore’s connectivity and enhance its position as a global transhipment hub.

“We are also making substantial investments in technology and automation to raise our productivity and service levels,” he said.

These moves will benefit the maritime industry and support the growth of manufacturing, logistics and supply chain companies, Mr Chee added.

In a Facebook post on Saturday, Transport Minister S. Iswaran said the port will be greener, with a target of net zero carbon emissions by 2050.

National University of Singapore associate professor Raymond Ong, who is a research track leader at the university’s Centre for Maritime Studies, said the opening of the first two berths will provide an immediate increase in container handling volume and give Singapore the ability to handle mega container vessels.

“This will bring a competitive advantage over ports in the region and make Singapore the choice port of call,” said Prof Ong.

But he noted that the new facility will also bring about the need to move containers between terminals across Singapore.

This means the port authorities will have to plan and design operations and ferrying of cargo in a manner that maintains port efficiency while minimising the impact on traffic to existing road users, Prof Ong said.

Dr Yap Wei Yim, head of Singapore University of Social Sciences’ international trade management minor programme, said the opening will allow Singapore to process large volumes of containers in a single location, thus allowing it to better meet the requirements of shipping alliance networks.

“The new facility represents a shift in focus from previously emphasising connectivity to particular regions and trade routes to accommodating the requirements of an entire shipping alliance network,” said Dr Yap.

He added that the future is bright for Tuas Port, citing how Singapore has continued to perform well in container trade during the Covid-19 pandemic.

Another key development that will benefit the Singapore container port landscape is the shift in centre of gravity for trade to Asia, as China and India are projected to be the world’s largest economies by 2040, he said.

“The strategic location of Singapore in South-east Asia offers our port a good chance to capitalise on growing transhipment opportunities as well,” said Dr Yap.

“I see the Covid-19 pandemic as expediting these developments with a positive outlook for Tuas Port.”

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