Singapore to Relieve Bottlenecks with Disused Terminals

Aerial view of containers in a terminal
Updated Published

On May 30, the Maritime and Port Authority of Singapore (MPA) announced the temporary reopening of previously closed container terminals in the city-state’s downtown area to address the backlog of ships waiting to dock at the world’s second busiest port.

The MPA stated, “We’ve seen large increases in container volumes and the ‘bunching’ of container vessel arrivals over the previous months due to supply chain disruptions in upstream locations.”

Between January and April, Singapore processed 13.36 million TEU, marking a nearly 9% increase compared to the same period last year.

The surge in off-schedule boxship arrivals and the increased container volumes have led to longer wait times for vessels seeking container berths. While most container vessels are berthed upon arrival, port operator PSA has coordinated with liners to adjust arrival schedules when possible.

When adjustments are not feasible, the MPA reported that the average waiting time for container vessels is about two to three days. However, some industry estimates suggest ships have had to wait up to five days to berth.

The heightened demand for container handling in Singapore stems from several container lines choosing to discharge more containers in Singapore, bypassing subsequent voyages to stay on schedule. Consequently, the number of containers handled per vessel has also risen.

The MPA added, “Added to these demands, container lines are also leveraging PSA’s cargo handling capabilities to help manage their containers stowage onboard vessels to facilitate expeditious discharge of cargo for their subsequent port calls. This is a sign of the confidence that container liners have in our port.”

Since late 2023, when the Red Sea crisis prompted vessels to reroute around the Cape of Good Hope, the MPA and the Ministry of Transport (MOT) have collaborated with PSA to prepare for increased ship arrivals.

Reopening the previously closed Keppel Terminal has allowed PSA to boost its weekly container handling capacity from 770,000 TEU to 820,000 TEU.

Moreover, in addition to the eight existing berths at Tuas Port, three new berths will become operational later this year, further increasing the port's handling capacity.

PSA intends to expedite the commissioning of these new berths to enhance overall container handling capacity in the near term. The MPA and PSA are actively coordinating with mainline operators and regional feeder operators, keeping them informed about berth availability and advising on arrival times to minimize berthing delays.