Singapore Reopens Dormant Container Terminals to Ease Port Congestion



On 30 May, the Maritime and Port Authority of Singapore (MPA) announced the temporary resumption of operations at shuttered container terminals in the city-state’s downtown to alleviate the backlog of ships queuing to dock at the world’s second busiest port.

MPA stated, “We have observed significant increases in container volumes and the ‘bunching’ of container vessel arrivals over recent months due to supply chain disruptions in upstream locations.”

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

The surge in off-schedule boxship arrivals and increased container volumes has led to longer wait times for vessels seeking a container berth. While most container vessels are berthed upon arrival, port operator PSA has collaborated with liners to adjust arrival schedules where feasible. When adjustments are not possible, MPA noted that the average waiting time for container vessels is approximately two to three days. However, other industry estimates suggest that ships have had to wait up to five days to berth.

The heightened demand for container handling in Singapore stems from several container lines discharging more containers in Singapore as they forgo subsequent voyages to adhere to their next schedules. Additionally, the number of containers handled per vessel has increased.

MPA continued, “In response to these demands, container lines are also leveraging PSA’s cargo handling capabilities to manage their containers’ stowage onboard vessels, facilitating the expeditious discharge of cargo for subsequent port calls. This reflects 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, MPA and the Ministry of Transport (MOT) have been collaborating with PSA to prepare for increased ship arrivals.

By reopening the previously defunct Keppel Terminal, PSA can now handle an increased number of containers weekly, from 770,000 TEU to a total of 820,000 TEU.

In addition to the eight existing berths in Tuas Port, three new berths will commence operations later this year, further enhancing overall port handling capacity.

PSA plans to expedite the commissioning of these new berths to bolster overall container handling capacity in the near term. MPA and PSA are working closely with mainline operators and regional feeder operators to keep them informed about berth availability and advise them on arrival times to minimize berthing delays.