Bigger is definitely better.

At least for container shipping companies.

The sheer size of these mega container vessels allows more cargo to be transported around the globe.

Technological advancement in ship engineering and design has made these sea giants more fuel efficient, travel further and require less hands on deck.

Shipping companies, which have been struggling to boost productivity amid rising costs and lower cargo are turning to these mega sea structures to turn their fortunes around.

For example, the world’s largest cargo and freight carrier Maersk Line operates about 590 container ships, ships goods worth US$675 billion (RM2.71 trillion) annually — or twice the size of Malaysia’s gross domestic product — and operates five Triple-E vessels which can hold 18,000 twenty-foot containers, according to Movers.db.com.

But the rise of these mega container vessels is forcing port operators around the world to have berth and ports deep enough to receive these giants.

Other supporting equipment is also required to accommodate larger vessels which includes higher containers handlers.

The rise of these mega ships has proved to be a challenge for port operators around the world.

Universiti Kuala Lumpur industrial logistics lecturer Rayner Tan said Malaysia has shown the willingness to meet the standards required for these vessels, but such a move requires further investments.

“Catering to larger ships means more spaces needed for the containers and enhanced equipment to transport them.

“One of the concerns is the empty spaces to accommodate these containers. And our ports such as Port of Tanjung Pelepas Sdn Bhd (PTP) have shown a good example of meeting the needs for these mega vessels,” he told The Malaysian Reserve.

The failure to provide the necessary facilities to welcome these mega container vessels has forced shipping companies to seek the next port of berth.

Tan said catering to larger vessels could be a disadvantage to ports who don’t possess the natural sources, as it requires the port to outdo its current capability.

“For ports who don’t have the spaces, such as the Port of Singapore, they have to carry out a reclamation project to set aside a piece of land for the additional laden and empty containers,” he said.

However, Singapore’s move to welcome these giant ships has largely boosted their containers traffic and this could have impacted Malaysia as well.

The Ministry of Transport’s official data showed that the cargo and container throughput had registered a continuous decline since the first quarter of 2017 (1Q17).

In 3Q17, Port Klang registered the lowest quarterly performance in cargo throughput since 2014, slumping 18.1% year-on-year with the total container throughput for the quarter falling 5.9% compared to a year ago.

In May 2017, PTP became the first port in South-East Asia to cater for a Maersk Line mega vessel.

PTP chairman Datuk Seri Che Khalib Mohamad Noh was reported as saying that the port’s strategic investment had been keeping up with the rapid changes in the port and shipping industries.

Last November, PTP revealed four newly installed ship-to-shore quay cranes, an addition to its 50 existing cranes.

The four new cranes are part of eight cranes ordered by the terminal to accommodate super post-panamax vessels.

Tan said ports in Malaysia must accelerate technology deployment and employ more competent human capital to raise the country’s ability to compete with other ports in the region.

“In terms of port operation, Singapore deploys more advanced technology that is ahead of us. That will draw more investors and companies to them.

“Singapore has the automation equipment which allows them to be a ‘no-man port’, and all running by the radio-frequency identification which will expedite the port operation.

“When that happens, they are able to cut down on the employment’s capital expenditure and capitalise it by giving benefits such as discounts to shipping companies,” Tan said.

Singapore is currently building its mega port in Tuas, which can cater up to 65 million twenty-foot equivalent units by 2040.

The completion of the port would raise the competition with Malaysia.

But Malaysia is putting forward its own infrastructure.

“Malaysia is currently building the Melaka Gateway deep-sea port and the Carey Island port which would attract investors — particularly the Chinese investors.

“However, as Singapore is having a similar development through its mega port project in Tuas, there will be a stiffer competition with our ports.

“Our move to establish two prominent terminals in the Melaka Straits is a good and promising move,” he said.

The battle is now not about how big the size of the vessels are, but the ports to receive them and how advanced these ports are to be able to accommodate these giant ships.

Source: Hellenic Shipping News.