Small but connected: How Singapore stands its ground as a global logistics hub (The Business Times)
On April 7, 2020, an unusual silence reverberated across the streets of Singapore as the country entered a nationwide partial lockdown to contain the spread of the Covid-19 outbreak.
Roads and buildings were emptied out as workplaces shuttered and schools closed.
Yet, at the Port of Singapore, it was all systems go. Container ships continued to dock while cranes loaded and unloaded containers around the clock, facilitating the flows of essential goods and cargo — not just for the country but also the world.
Singapore handled 36.9 million twenty-foot equivalent units (TEUs) of containers in 2020, little changed from the 37.2 million TEUs in 2019. It also retained its position as the world’s largest bunkering port in 2020, recording marine fuel sales of almost 49.8 million metric tons.
Amid a global pandemic that has severely disrupted supply chains, Singapore’s strong maritime performance was a clear indication of how it has strengthened its status as a global logistics hub. The country ranked second out of 169 countries in DHL’s Global Connectedness Index 2020, which measures the development of trade, capital, information, and people flows at the global, regional, and national levels.
“Singapore’s leadership recognized the importance of trade to our economy very early on. As we grew as a country, and we saw globalization taking root, there was a huge focus in ensuring that there was a free flow of goods and services, which has empowered our success as a logistics hub,” said Christopher Ong, Managing Director, DHL Express Singapore.
But what else has been crucial to the city-state’s success?
Home to the world’s busiest transshipment seaport and one of Asia’s largest cargo airports, Changi Airport, Singapore’s infrastructure and connectivity have been critical enablers in global trade — even more so in this pandemic when freight capacity is scarce.
There are plans to double the annual cargo handling capacity at Changi Airport from 3 million to 5.4 million tons. It houses the 26-hectare Airport Logistics Park of Singapore, the country’s first logistics park with Free Trade Zone status when it opened in 2003.
Beyond being recognized for its first-rate infrastructure and connectivity, it is also known for its capabilities in handling time-sensitive cargo and cold-chain perishables.
In line with this, Singapore’s reputation as a cold-chain logistics expert paves the way for its ambitions to become a hub for vaccine transport.
Located at the crossroads of major shipping routes, Singapore’s seaport will also continue to facilitate trade connectivity by sea. The upcoming Tuas mega port will further enhance Singapore’s capability to serve as a transshipment hub for the world's trade flows, shared Mr Ong.
Singapore has always leveraged technology to stay ahead of the game as a country with no natural resources.
For instance, the Tuas mega port — slated to be fully operational by 2040 — will be able to process 65 million TEUs as the world’s largest fully automated terminal.
The smart port will harness advanced technologies such as Artificial Intelligence and the Internet of Things (IoT) to deliver green and sustainable solutions. These include driverless automated guided vehicles, smart sensors to detect shipping anomalies such as piracy, and data analytics to predict traffic congestion spots.
Earlier this year, the government also announced a S$15 billion (€9.35 billion) framework to attract tech-driven investments into the marine freight business. These include funding for start-ups in areas like environmental sustainability, data processing and cybersecurity.
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