Singapore Plants Its Project Cargo Stakes

City-State Enjoys Domestic and Regional Growth

By Thomas Timlen

In a feature story from Issue 3, 2023 of Breakbulk Magazine, we turn our attention to Singapore and the city state’s fast-growing project market.

The saturation of container terminals stretching along Singapore’s southern coast from its city-centre westward to Tuas port leave no doubt regarding the Southeast Asian country’s continued leading position in the container sector, in regular rivalry with Shanghai and Hong Kong.

The volume of container traffic, along with the related massive terminal footprint, can tend to overshadow other sectors that contribute to the diversity of the nation’s transportation mix, including the tanker trade, air freight, logistics, cruise ships, bunkering, the offshore sector and operations that facilitate the project and heavy-lift sector.

The diversity of project and heavy-lift operations conducted in Singapore is as varied as the multiple activities driving demand for these services. The offshore sector is one of the key businesses generating demand, yet even here, provision of transport covers only part of the story.

Singapore’s ambitious domestic infrastructure development also generates demand for the project and breakbulk sector, including extensive expansion of the nation’s underground railway system and expressways.

The wealth and prosperity present in Singapore and neighbouring countries also drives demand for the transport of luxury goods too large to fit within containers, such as yachts that are repositioned in accordance with the seasons and their owners’ whims.

While there are several providers of out-of-gauge transport services based in Singapore, there is only one gateway capable of facilitating such operations: Jurong Port, or JP.

“Jurong Port is the only gateway port for breakbulk and project cargo entering or departing Singapore,” Walter Lin, general manager of general cargo and the project logistics hub at JP, told Breakbulk. Lin pointed out that the largest items that the country’s container terminals can handle are those that can be lashed to flat-rack containers; anything beyond those dimensions arriving or departing by sea must be routed via JP.

Jurong’s Prime Position

Since the days of Singapore’s independence more than fifty years ago, JP has been the main point of entry and is today in the midst of a ten-year services enhancement initiative.

Having already established its initial homeport area catering to complex land and vessel operations supporting offshore and onshore projects, the port has more recently added its Offshore Marine Centres, OMC1 and OMC2. OMC1 primarily handles fabrication, load outs and maintenance, repair and overhaul, or MRO, for offshore vessels and equipment, while OMC2 offers fabrication of heavy modules, load outs and MRO for deep draft vessels with expanded features coming on stream this year.

Lin pointed out that such operations establish JP as much more than a port, offering users a staging ground where operations can be performed with professional support. With over one hundred acres available in a free trade zone, customers can conduct pre-deployment testing of equipment and vessels, equipment fabrication and other activities, within a 24/7 operating environment.

One example involved the assembly of a subsea cable carousel. The carousel’s parts were shipped in containers and arrived at a PSA terminal. From there the containers were moved by road haulage to JP where the carousel was assembled and then loaded on board a cable-laying vessel for operations in the region.

As Singapore’s only multipurpose port, with connectivity to more than 300 ports worldwide, JP has become a hub for project logistics, enabling the consolidation of cargoes from various origins for onward forwarding throughout the region.

The pursuit of renewable energy has also generated business at JP. The port’s connectivity with Australia, Taiwan and Vietnam has benefitted carriers engaged in the development of offshore wind farms. During the past two years JP has facilitated the movement of wind turbines, towers, hubs and blades to the expanding offshore wind farms off Taiwan’s western coast.

Closer to home, JP has been the conduit for the movements of underground train carriages serving Singapore’s expanding train network, as well as the tunnelling equipment used for the construction of new stations and tracks.

Trains and Tunnels

Recent consignments carried by transport providers demonstrate the diversity of activity in Singapore, as AAL Shipping’s General Manager and Global Head of Chartering Marc Willim told Breakbulk.

“AAL has been involved in shipments of wagons for Mass Rapid Transit (MRT) systems as well as Tunnel Boring Machines (TBM) for both MRT and Expressway Tunnel extensions in the past. Furthermore, we are regularly transporting yachts out of Europe and the Persian Gulf to Singapore, which then sail to final destinations in Southeast Asia, including Thailand, Indonesia and beyond.”

Regarding Singapore’s multifaceted role in the offshore sector, Willim highlighted the country’s activity in the manufacture and export of project cargo. “In September 2022, AAL was entrusted by one of its U.S.-based oil and gas clients to transport four locally manufactured Blowout Preventer stacks, used to control abnormal pressures in the well bore while drilling the well, from Singapore to the U.S. Gulf.

“For this shipment, the planning required from AAL as the carrier and in particular our engineering department was extraordinary, not only because of the sensitivity of the cargo, its intended final use, and dimensions – 6 meters by 6 meters by 11 meters, with a unit weight of almost 300 metric tonnes – but also because the cargo was manufactured in a local shipyard with very high safety regulations, far above the usual requirements for port operations. AAL was successfully able to meet these stringent requirements, thanks to our strict operational standards and ISO certifications.

“The cargo handling and cargo lifting both sides were carried out by one of our fully owned A-Class vessels and its 350 metric tonnes Safe Working Load on-board cranes and spreader bars, available as part of the standard rigging equipment.”

Willim said that while Singapore operates one of the largest container ports globally alongside what is often considered the first choice for replenishing bunkers in Asia, the number of actual projects in Singapore itself is rather limited. This highlights the innovative approach that JP has taken to offer services well beyond the limits of discharging and loading operations of a port, to provide a staging ground in a free trade zone that supports operations throughout the region.

In addition to commission, fabrication and assembly works at the port as a staging ground, the port also caters to decommissioning operations, plus it can handle stern-to-stern transhipments as well as challenging Mediterranean mooring, the latter not only involving specialized skillsets but also authorization from harbour authorities for blocking movements of other vessels for the duration of the operation.

Project Volumes Growth

Looking ahead, the indicators are good for sustained activity at JP and for the port’s users. Cargo is expected for the expansion of the underground train network: during the next seven years the country has set a target to expand the rail network to about 360 kilometres. At that length, Singapore will have a total rail length that is longer than Tokyo or Hong Kong, and on par with London and New York City. The project will call for movements of tunnel boring machinery and train carriages.

The offshore sector has traditionally had a strong presence in Singapore, and as its stakeholders continue to support the oil and gas sector many are now simultaneously involved in sustainable energy initiatives. Here, Taiwan’s offshore wind farms are set for continued expansion: In December, Taiwan’s Bureau of Energy confirmed that the Haiding 2 windfarm had been successfully awarded 600 MW grid capacity following the first phase of Taiwan’s Round 3 auctions. This set the stage for the signing of new joint venture partnerships aimed at expanding development, which is expected to have a positive effect on further related activity at JP.

Singapore has been laying the groundwork for increasing project volumes for some years. Now, it is ready to reap the benefits of projected breakbulk and heavy-lift cargo growth, both domestic and from the wider Asia region.

Breakbulk Europe 2023 will be hosting a "Global Project Review" main stage session on Thursday 8 June from 12:00-12:30. The session will be presented by Neil Golding, director of market intelligence at the Energy Industries Council. Click here for this year's full programme.

PHOTO: The Boskalis vessels BOKALIFT 1 and 2 operating at Jurong Port. CREDIT: Jurying Port