Malaysian ports need to prepare better to handle mega-boxships

Warning that Malaysian ports are not immune to the ongoing global problem of mismatch in demand and sailing slot/capacity, NCB Holdings group Managing Director, Abi Sofian Abdul Hamid told local media that the relevant quarters should have a long-term plan to meet this challenge head-on to ensure continued competitiveness.

This has affected freight rates and in turn the local shipping industry, Abi Sofian said and noted in particular that Port Klang needs to be better prepared to ensure container flows from ultra-large vessels do not go to other ports.

Port Klang, where NCB’s Northports is one of the terminal operators, has a strategic location which gives it a big opportunity to explore maritime trade, as other ports, like those in southern Thailand and Sumatra, are unable to meet the demand, he pointed out.

“Jakarta and Singapore are too far and would be too costly,” he said, adding that all resources should be utilised in efforts to make Port Klang one of the 10 busiest ports in the world and at the same time compete with Singapore.

Malaysia’s cumulative container throughput is 20million TEU, with Port Klang making up half of that and the rest by the ports of Tanjung Pelepas, Penang, Pasir Gudang, Kuantan, Bintulu, Teluk Sepanggar and Senari. This is still some way behind Singapore’s projected capacity of 65million TEU when its new container terminal in Tuas is fully developed.

There is still some time as the ultra large containerships (ULCs) are still coming online but local port operators were urged to upgrade their port capacity and infrastructure to accommodate the mega vessels in two years’ time when all the shipping companies that have made significant orders are expected to take delivery of their vessels.

Hinting at possible re-alignments with liner alliances as more lines take delivery of their new ULCs, Abi Sofian said: “These developments show port operators that they should be ready with the capacity and facilities if they are to compete for ultra-large vessels in the period.”

Abi Sofian also noted that existing local shipping firms have been unable to completely fill the void left by MISC. The local shipping industry is not just about handling cargo, but also provides opportunities for locals’ involvement in various skill areas, he said, adding the focus should be on raising container terminal productivity and efficiency as well as on-deck preparedness to enhance port operations, he said.



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