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Pros and cons of container consolidation

Singapore’s port is seeing more calls thanks to the recent alliance merry-go-round.

The island’s top terminal operator remains cautious on prospects this year, however analysts have made it clear the big container alliance reshuffle has favoured the world’s biggest transhipment hub.

The head of port giant PSA International has admitted times are tough for those in the terminals sector.

In announcing results for 2016 recently, Tan Chong Meng, group CEO of PSA International, said: “The tough business environment is likely to continue into 2017 but that is not the whole story. We may witness more system-wide changes brought on by the convergence of slow market growth, emerging technologies and new business needs. Rapid consolidations in the container liner industry are giving rise to uncertainties as well as opportunities. New shipping service deployments and products will hit the market, demanding adjustments and adaptations by not only terminal operators, but players big and small in the global supply chain.”

Despite the cautious sentiment, what is clear is that the April 1 box shipping alliance changes have been kind to Singapore. Hong Kong-based shipping software firm CargoSmart has provided data to Maritime CEO that shows the new alliances structure sees the Lion Republic get an extra weekly service on the main east-west trades, eight more ships calling and the average size of these vessels dropping by increasing by 1,200 teu to 12,200 teu, the largest average ship size to call at any major port worldwide.

To put these statistics in perspective, Shanghai, which is the only boxport with more throughput than Singapore in the world, is experiencing – post alliance changes – five less weekly services, 50 less deployed vessels and an average ship size by alliance members calling of 11,400 teu. Singapore could well close the gap with top spot Shanghai teu-wise in the coming 18 months.

Analysts Alphaliner also have highlighted how Singapore has won big on the Asia – Europe tradelane post April 1.

Alphaliner states Singapore will be handling 34 weekly calls on the Asia-Europe tradelane, up from 29 previously. The growth comes at the expense of neighbouring Port Klang in Malaysia. France’s CMA CGM, the world’s third largest containerline, having bought out Singapore’s APL last year, has committed to more calls in Singapore and has also inked an agreement with PSA to establish a joint venture terminal.

Container consolidation, while damaging to others, has actually proved a bonus to Singapore.

This article first appeared in the just published latest issue of Maritime CEO magazine which is being distributed across Singapore Maritime Week. Splash readers can access the full magazine by clicking here.

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