WESTPORTS Malaysia Sdn Bhd, one of
the fastest growing ports in the country, expects slower volume
growth next year due to the weakening US and European consumer
Executive director Ruben Emir
Gnanalingam said the port did not expect double-digit growth next
year as it had recorded in the past. However, the port would achieve
the target growth rate of 16.3% or five million 20-ft equivalent
units (TEUs)this year.
Year-to-date, the port has handled
4.3 million TEUs.
“Based on our daily average volume
of about 13,000 to 14,000 TEUs, we are sure to reach our target by
year-end,” he told StarBiz.
Ruben said in the year to August,
Westports had achieved faster-than-expected volume growth but that
had since slowed down.
“We recorded the highest monthly
volume ever in August of about 475,000 TEUs. In September, which is
usually slow, we handled 425,000 TEUs and in October we handled
435,000 TEUs,” he added.
“At this time, it’s too early too
tell whether the current situation is the normal cyclical downturn
or it is the global economic meltdown that has affected trade as
there are many other issues that have led to slower volume,” Ruben
He said that in the last couple of
months there were many typhoon and fog incidents in China, Hong Kong
and Taiwan that affected shipping schedule.
“The Middle East ports also
experienced some congestion due to inadequate crane drivers,” Ruben
said, adding that these factors were not related to the current
global economic turmoil.
He said if the slowdown in volume
persisted over the next three months, there was a higher likelihood
that the industry was not just undergoing a cyclical downturn but
was affected by the economic slump.
However, Ruben said, Westports,
like other ports in the region that were dependant on Asia-Europe
and Asia-Middle East trades, would start to feel the pinch of shaky
consumer markets in the US and Europe next year.
“The majority of trade volume
depends on China’s export to Europe and that has seen a decline.
Shanghai used to pose double-digit annual export growth of about 15%
to Europe but now it is posting single-digit growth,” he said.
Ruben said that according to
Westports’ customers, intra-Asia trade would still be strong.
“Even our biggest customer, CMA-CGM,
which is involved in the Asia-Europe trade, still anticipates growth
next year,” he said.
Ruben said Westports was only
looking at slower growth and not a decline.
The slower growth in volume would
not affect the port’s RM800mil expansion plans. Container terminal
five of the port has just been completed, adding a capacity of
another 1.2 million TEUs for a total of 7.2 million TEUs.
“Going forward, the construction of
container terminal six will be carefully examined based on customer
projections of how much capacity is needed,” Ruben said.
He said Westports was also bidding
for overseas port management jobs. “We’ve won a contract to manage a
port in Kerala, India,” Ruben said.
He said Westports’ Indian partner,
a construction firm, would build the port while Westports would come
in as port manager.
“Kerala has the prospects to be a
successful transhipment hub as it does not have much import and
export activities while its strategic location at the tip of India
is near the main trade lane. The water depth there is also conducive
to container vessels,” Ruben said.