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2020 July 30

Interview of IAA PortNews with Ms Quah Ley Hoon, Chief Executive of the Maritime and Port Authority of Singapore

Port of Singapore is one of the busiest ports in the world, located in the city-state. The port is attractive to global lines thanks to advanced technology services provided and its huge bunker fuel market. Ms Quah Ley Hoon, Chief Executive of the Maritime and Port Authority of Singapore in an exclusive interview with IAA PortNews told about the port's work and achievements.

- What, apart from a strategically favorable location, allows the Port of Singapore to remain for many years a major global hub for shipping industry?

Certainly, it is important for development of our nation’s maritime sector to be at the centre of trade routes, but this is just one of the advantages. It is equally important to create attractive and convenient conditions for the shipping business. Singapore has progressively built up a pool of service providers in areas such as shipbroking, marine insurance, maritime law and arbitration, as well as ship financing. The availability of a comprehensive range of services has increased Singapore’s attractiveness as a base in Asia for shipowners and operators.

More than 150 international shipping groups across diverse sectors such as container, dry bulk, tanker, as well as offshore are currently present in Singapore. Today, there are more than 5,000 maritime organisations contributing about 7% of Singapore’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP).

- The port is located in a metropolitan city. How do you manage to combine the interests of the city and the port?

Currently, our container terminals are located in the fringes of the city centre. Our plan as announced in 2012 is to move and consolidate container port activities in Tuas, at the western end of Singapore.

The vision is to build a smart, next-generation port that increases efficiency and productivity, optimises land-use, improves safety and security, and enhances sustainability. When fully completed by the 2040s, Tuas Port is set to become the world’s largest container terminal at a single location.

The consolidation of container port activities at Tuas will help achieve greater economies of scale and reduce inter-terminal haulage of containers. This not only reduces road congestion, but also helps container lines and cargo owners save time and reduce operating costs.

Tuas Port will use digital technologies and artificial intelligence to improve the efficiency of terminal operations. For example, automated wharf and yard operations will enable terminal operators at the control centre to remotely monitor the loading and unloading of containers from vessels and at the yard. Aided by computers, intelligent sensors and cameras, operators will also be able to handle several quay and yard cranes simultaneously. In addition, automated guided vehicles will transport containers between the quay side and the container yard. Tuas Port will also boast intelligent port systems including the Next Generation Vessel Traffic Management System.

The Maritime and Port Authority of Singapore ( MPA) is reclaiming land required for Tuas Port in four phases. As part of the Tuas Port expansion, navigational channels, fairways and basins were dredged to form deeper sea berths to accommodate larger vessels.

- Please tell us about innovations in the port: what has been done in recent years regarding the digitalization of interaction between ship agents and vessels, customs authorities?

To improve port efficiency and prepare for the next generation port at Tuas, MPA launched digitalPORT@SG TM, a one stop portal for port related clearances, in October 2019. digitalPORT@SG TM streamlines vessel, immigration and port health clearances across multiple agencies into a single application by consolidating 16 separate forms. Shipmasters and ship agents from more than 5 5 0 shipping companies can now submit, track and receive approval for arriving and departing ships through the portal. As a result, the industry can save up to 100,000 man hours per year.

In the next phase, digitalPORT@SGTM will optimise port resources and enhance efficiency through artificial intelligence by facilitating just-in-time operations for optimal vessel passage planning at the Port of Singapore digitalPORT@SGTM will also act as the single digital shopfront for booking of marine services.

digitalPORT@SG SGTM is envisioned as a major part of MPA’s digitalOCEANS digitalOCEANSTM strategy to encourage Open or Common Exchange And Network Standardisation, with the objective of enabling seamless port to port connectivity, effective information exchange and efficient transactions across the maritime transport chain.

- Singapore is the world’s largest bunker hub. What is the bunker sales volume in 2019 and the first quarter of 2020? What is the trend and why? Are there still any sales of heavy fuel oil that is not compliant with the IMO2020 (exceeding 0.5% sulphur content)?

For the 1st quarter of 2019, bunker sales volume was about 12.1 million tonnes. Comparing this year-on-year, bunker sales volume has grown by about 5% to 12.7 million tonnes for the 1st quarter of 2020.

Since 2018, Singapore had been working closely with the industry to prepare for IMO’s 2020 sulphur limit which was implemented on 1 January 2020. Due to our planning and preparations, our licensed bunker suppliers were able to supply 0.5% sulphur compliant fuel well ahead of the regulations coming into force. We still supply high sulphur fuel oil to ships coming at Singapore Port provided they are fitted with abatement technology e.g. scrubbers to comply with IMO’s regulation.

– Two years ago Singapore was one of the first port in the world that created a market for LNG bunkering. What is the volume of LNG bunkering in 2019 and in early 2020 in Singapore? What is the trend and your forecast for this segment?

Singapore promotes environmental sustainability of the maritime industry. As such, MPA encourages the use of green fuels to reduce the impact of shipping on the environment.

To grow the range of marine fuels offered to vessels calling at the Port of Singapore, MPA has been developing Singapore’s ecosystem and infrastructure for LNG bunkering since 2017. MPA’s two LNG bunker supply licensees – FueLNG and Pavilion – have performed more than 240 truck-to-ship LNG bunkering operations in Singapore. Moving ahead, with the LNG bunker vessels co-funded by MPA, FueLNG and Pavilion will be embarking on ship-to-ship LNG bunkering of ocean-going vessels in the Port of Singapore from as early as the 2nd half of 2020.

The demand for LNG bunkers is now still at an early stage as such activities in Singapore are largely truck-to-ship in nature. This is expected to grow over the next few years with the arrival of two LNG bunker vessels and more LNG-fuelled ocean-going vessels in Singapore.

In Singapore, MPA has worked with government agencies and businesses to develop the Technical Reference for LNG Bunkering, or TR56 for short, that guides LNG bunkering operations in the Port of Singapore. Internationally, MPA collaborated with like-minded port authorities and maritime administrations to develop a set of harmonised LNG bunkering standards and procedures for ocean-going vessels calling at different ports for LNG bunkering.

- Do LNG bunker suppliers or LNG-powered ships making calls at the port enjoy any kind of preferences?

MPA’s Green Ship Programme offers incentives to encourage the adoption of engines using alternative fuels with low carbon content such as LNG. MPA’s Green Port Programme also provides 25% port dues concessions for qualifying vessels that use LNG as a bunker fuel. To promote the uptake of LNG bunker in the Port of Singapore, MPA grants a five-year waiver of craft dues for LNG-fuelled harbour crafts.

MPA is also studying alternative fuels such as biofuels, electricity and hydrogen/ammonia as options for bunker to meet the IMO’s greenhouse gas emission targets of 2030 and 2050.

Photos provided by Maritime and Port Authority of Singapore.

The abridged version was contributed by Safir Khakuz and Tatiana Vilde.

The full version of the interview with Ms Quah Ley Hoon, Chief Executive of the Maritime and Port Authority of Singapore will be published in The PortNews September issue.