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  16th March 2009 - STAR MARITIME

Port Klang players feeling the pinch

MOST maritime players in Port Klang have experienced double-digit drop in cargo volume in the first two months of this year on a year-on-year basis due to the global economic downturn.

Although many of them have embarked on initiatives to sustain their cargo volume throughout the year, some are still unsure about the outlook beyond March.

Port Klang, the national maritime gateway, has projected an average 10% fall in cargo volume this year. Port operators there recorded a 16% drop in cargo volume in January against the same month in 2008.

The port posted a 12% increase in cargo volume to 7.97 million TEUs (20-ft equivalent units) last year.

United Arab Shipping Co (UASC) Malaysia Sdn Bhd country general manager Desmond Yong told StarBiz its cargo volume for January and February dropped by 25% to 30%. UASC is a major container shipping company based in the Middle East.

Yong said although the volume for the first two months was not encouraging, it had started to show signs of revival this month.

“We have begun to see positive cargo volume movements contributed by local companies involved in overseas construction projects and commodities such as palm oil, rubber and cocoa.

“These are the key factors that we expect will sustain cargo volume at healthy levels this year,” he said.

Yong said it would be difficult to predict the outlook for 2009 due to the global economic uncertainty.

“We are now managing our business plan on a month-to-month basis until future prospects become clearer,” he said.

Meanwhile, Kudrat Maritime Sdn Bhd, a shipping agent representing more than 300 principals (shipping companies) worldwide, recorded fewer vessel calls for the first two months of this year.

“We recorded 20% to 25% fewer ship calls for January and February. Usually, we receive an average 200 ship calls per month,” said its executive director Faizul Kamaruddin.

“A large chunk of the contraction was due to fewer calls from the dry-bulk carriers and palm oil tankers,” he added.

To sustain the current volume, he said Kudrat Maritime planned to embark on an aggressive marketing initiative in the Mediterranean, Europe and Far East.

Kudrat Maritime usually does its own marketing in South-East Asia only. The company relies on network alliances to carry out marketing works in other areas.

Taipanco Sdn Bhd, a haulage operator, recorded about 30% drop in cargo volume for the first two months of this year.

Its executive director Nazari Akhbar said Taipanco had started implementing cost-cutting measures due to the slump in both imports and exports.

“These include a freeze on new staff recruitment and rationalisation of repair works.

“We should be able to weather the storm until year-end but I am unsure what lies ahead next year if the economic downturn persists,” he said.


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