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Singapore needs to up productivity to keep leading port hub status

Emerging new sea routes such as the Arctic passage and possible new developments such as the Kra Canal are unlikely to supplant existing trade routes any time soon. But these mean port cities have to look carefully at the potential implications for them, said chief executive officer of Maritime and Port Authority of Singapore (MPA) Andrew Tan.

To ensure that Singapore’s position as a leading port hub does not diminish, the Republic cannot be complacent and must strive to remain relevant by making sure its new ports can achieve a higher level of productivity, are more automated and have higher environmental standards, he added.

He was speaking at the International Transport Forum held in Leipzig, Germany, on Wednesday (May 27), during a panel session discussing the implications for maritime transport, given new trade patterns. Other panelists include Mr Warren Truss, Australia’s Deputy Prime Minister, and Mr Jakob Bomholt, chief executive officer of APM Terminals in the Netherlands.

Intra-regional trade has grown, tripling over the last 10 years to US$3 trillion (S$4.05 trillion), and the industry is moving rapidly, noted Mr Tan. While Singapore used to top the list of container ports, followed by Shanghai and then Hong Kong, Shanghai has toppled Singapore, while Hong Kong has dropped to fifth place, he said.

Singapore has been trying to support its port industry by building up the rest of the maritime cluster and its whole value chain, which means ancillary services such as ship-broking, finance and banking institutions, and legal and arbitration sector, he added.

The country also has a good and strong Government framework to provide business certainty and “these are strengths that Singapore in particular will try to play to in order to ensure we continue to be relevant in this emerging tapestry of regional connections and interconnections”, said Mr Tan.

The maritime sector contributes 7 per cent to the country’s GDP and employs 170,000 people with more than 5,000 maritime companies in Singapore, and the port plays a key contributor, he noted.

The MPA is preparing to handle higher cargo volumes by upping its capacity with the new Pasir Panjang Terminals 3 and 4, as well as the planned new generation port in Tuas.

Mr Tan added: “The questions you have to ask yourself is ‘How are you going to stay in the game, how do you keep yourself competitive and stay relevant? Success breeds a certain level of complacency and what history is telling us is that we have to stay relevant, and that’s what we plan to do.”
Source: Channel News Asia

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