Shadowy prospects - Maritime Institute of Malaysia

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Shadowy prospects - Maritime Institute of Malaysia
SOUTH EAST ASIA
INTRODUCTION
S o u t h
E a s t
A s i a
PHOTO: © DEEPTA | DREAMSTIME.COM
GLOBAL VIEW
Shadowy prospects
How the dramatic effects of the downturn will play out across different
countries in SE Asia remains far from clear, reports Jacintha Stephens
ingapore-based NOL, parent of boxline APL,
is something of a bellwether among ship
operators in Southeast Asia. Imagine then
the consternation when in February it
reported an 84% drop in profits for 2008, imminent
lay-up of 15 ships and the deferral of newbuildings.
NOL ceo Ron Widdows did not mince his words. ‘The
severity of the collapse in global trade over recent
months is without precedent,’ he said.
Widdows is well-placed to comment. Singapore
remains the world’s busiest container port, with
PSA Singapore Terminals the world’s busiest
transhipment hub, handling around one fifth of all
containers transhipped worldwide. Throughput for
2008 as a whole was up 7%, to 29m teu, but as
PSA Int’l group ceo Eddie Teh admitted, by yearend ‘global trade worldwide had slowed to crawl.’
But the full effects of the unfolding economic
drama on different countries in the region are still
far from clear. Like in a traditional ‘wayang kulit’ or
shadow puppet play, there are powerful forces –
seen and unseen – at work shaking the established
order that as yet are visible only in silhouette.
Rattling the regional maritime industry to its core
is the downward spiral of demand for Asian exports
from major economies, thereby collapsing trade
volumes in the Asia-US and Asia-Europe routes. Add
to this other developments such as the lack of
S
Chinese iron ore demand and the plunging new car
market, and you get a rapid erosion of sentiment. But
exactly which Southeast Asian countries will be worst
affected and why remains open to debate.
Singapore’s economy being the most open in
Southeast Asia meant it was the first to be affected,
believes Capt. Lim Yuon Fatt, head of the Shipping
Business section at Singapore Maritime. Not helping
matters is the fact its domestic market is so small, and
the republic’s maritime sector is heavily service
orientated. ‘If there's less cargo, then there is less
demand for ships and ports services,’ he says.
Maritime Institute of Malaysia (Mima) research
fellow Nazery Khalid maintains that Malaysia has
less cause for worry since its economy ‘is more
diversified and has more depth and breadth. Like
many other Southeast Asian nations it can still rely
on local cargo generated by economic activities in
the hinterland and demand from a fairly large local
domestic markets,’ he says.
Others believe Malaysia will potentially be the
worst hit of all countries in South East Asia on
account of commodity price collapse combined
with a higher dependence on exports. ‘This could
mean a double whammy for Malaysia,’ says
maritime industry consultant David Wignall.
Indonesia, by contrast, should prove fairly
resistant to external problems because the low cost
JACINTHA STEPHENS
CONTENTS
41
INTRODUCTION
43
THAILAND / ReCAAP
45
INDONESIA
48
MALAYSIA
March/April 2009
41
SOUTH EAST ASIA
THAILAND / ReCAAP
PRECIOUS SHIPPING RETAINS VALUES IN BULK DOWNTURN
K
its benchmark BDI index from an all time high to a
halid M Hashim, founder and md of Thaitwo-decade
low. In such circumstances you must
based handysize dry cargo specialist Precious
expect
a
‘raft
of bankruptcies and host of
Shipping Limited (PSL), believes that by
renegotiations,’
he says.
avoiding certain ‘cardinal sins’ of ship owning his
But
for
PSL
it
is rather a time of opportunity, as
company has been able to buck the downtrend.
company
in the market for
the
adopted
the
cautious
strategy
of
PSL
second-hand purchases. At end 2008
not buying any assets or extending
the PSL fleet totalling 1.13m dwt had
credit lines during the ‘crazy boom time.’
an average ship age of around 21
Instead it sold 10 ships in 2007 ‘at the
years. ‘The company will continue to
peak’ of the cycle, and locked in charters
be on the lookout for the right
for more than 30% of its forward fouropportunities for additional fleet
year book at rates that Hashim describes
renewal,’ says Hashim, ‘as we would
as ‘extremely robust compared to the
like to achieve an annual fleet
current spot market rates’.
■ Khalid Hashim
strength of between 50 and 70 ships
The company is one of the biggest
within the next few years.’
players in the handysize sector having 1.5% of the
Specifically, PSC is looking to replace 25 ships
world fleet capacity, with its existing 44 ships and
from the current fleet with younger and larger
18 ships on order. Net pre-tax profit for Q4 2008,
tonnage within the next two years. ‘The existing
after the dry bulk market had tanked, was a
financially stressed conditions are the opportunity
‘fantastic’ $35.02m, Hashim points out, averaging a
that we had been patiently waiting for,’ says
very respectable $16,325 per ship per day.
Hashim, ‘and if implemented successfully, will
For the dry bulk sector as a whole, Hashim says
ensure the long-term profitability of the company
the next 12 months are looking bleak, hardly
over the next two to three decades.‘
surprising after the sudden fall-off of nearly 95% in
base of its exports will provide a cushion against
the worst impact of the global recession, believes
Wignall. He sees ‘reform within the country
providing opportunities from its own internal
market,’ and even goes even goes as far as to
suggest that ‘perhaps this is the crisis where
Indonesia comes to its rightful position as the lead
economy in the region.’
Elsewhere in Southeast Asia, Thailand will
suffer from a downturn in shipping volumes ‘not
too badly,’ he feels. In Vietnam, a slump in
container exports is of concern at present but is
expected to be short-lived. Rather Wignall feels
the real concern may be the number of
container port developments underway and the
potential for terminal overcapacity. ‘The Vietnam
economy has a comparative cost advantage and
the continued easing of Government control on
the economy is perhaps more important in the
longer term than the impact of the global slow
down,’ he says.
To some shipping company heads in the region,
such as Khalid Hashim, of Thai dry bulk operator
Precious Shipping (see box above), China continues
to hold the key. He points out that national steel
mills have responded to China's reduction in steel
demand – estimated to account for 50% of global
iron ore trade last year – by planning to cut
production by 20-30% in 2009.
‘This cutback will feel like a kick in the face for
the freight market during 2009,’ he says. ‘Our only
hope is that the recently announced Chinese
government stimulus plan of $586bn to be spent
on infrastructure and other developments during
2009, would help lessen this blow.’ Analysts say
the dry bulk outlook has since improved from
bleak to cautious.
John Lu, chairman of the Asia Shippers’ Council,
believes that ports like Singapore dealing mainly in
finished-product cargo are hit harder than those
involved in the bulk cargo trade. ‘Bulk cargo trade
has been more stable than finished products,’ he
says, meaning countries with a more mixed port
throughput portfolio – like Malaysia, Indonesia,
Thailand and the Philippines – will be less impacted
by the recession.
However, Lu also predicts Singapore's maritime
industry will become stronger and have more of an
edge in the long term, given how pro-active its
government in continuing to boost infrastructure,
efficiency and IT during this time of slower growth,
for its longer term competitiveness. He warns that
governments in the region which are not stable
and/or do not have the resources, may not be able
to similarly build up their maritime sector.
Similarly for multinational maritime companies
operating in the region there is ‘opportunity in
adversity.’ Bengt Ekstrand, GAC’s regional director
for Asia Pacific, tells Seatrade that Singapore and
the wider region remain a very important market
for the company, and ‘all going well, you will see
the GAC flag planted in a few more Asian countries
in the not too distant future.’
And as Nazery says, no bear market lasts
forever. ‘This storm, like many others over the
decades, will pass, and the shipping markets and
maritime sector (in South East Asia) will then
recover - fast.’ ■
ReCAAP
s piracy issues in the
Gulf of Aden, and more
recently off Nigeria,
preoccupy the maritime
community, the Regional
Cooperation Agreement on
Combating Piracy and Armed
Robbery against Ships in Asia
(ReCAAP) continues its
valuable work.
ReCAAP informs that the
number of reported incidents of
piracy and armed robbery
against ships in Asia totalled 96
- 83 actual and 13 attempted last year. Severity of the attacks
was far less than in the 20042007 period, and the situation
was notably improved off the
port of Chittagong, Bangladesh,
and in ports and anchorages of
Indonesia, reports ReCAAP.
In the Straits of Singapore
and Malacca, where the piracy
situation reached a nadir in
2004 prompting the
coordinated naval patrols by
the littoral states and the
founding of ReCAAP, an
increase in the amount of
attacks on tugboats was noted.
Similar attacks also took place
off Pulau Tioman, Malaysia. In
general tankers were more
affected last year than
previously, ReCAAP also noted.
Meanwhile, the Federation
of ASEAN Shipowner
Associations (FASA) has joined
the international shipping
community in calling for
governments to commit to
increased numbers of deployed
warships in the Gulf of Aden.
Singapore announced this
February that it would commit
a naval ship and two
helicopters from the Republic
of Singapore Navy (RSN) to
join in the US-led Combined
Maritime Forces coalition to
combat piracy. The Royal Thai
Navy is also understood to be
monitoring the situation. And
the Malaysian Maritime
Academy (Alam) is developing
a new course on piracy
management to better equip
its cadets in the case of attack.
A
March/April 2009
43
SOUTH EAST ASIA
INDONESIA
BERLIAN LAJU
TANKERS
erlian Laju Tankers (BLT)
is one of Indonesia’s
largest and most rapidly
expanding maritime players. It
currently operates 61 chemical
tankers, 14 oil tankers, 12 gas
carriers (including one LNG
carrier) and one FPSO, with an
average age of 9.3 years. The
company took delivery of 10
new tankers and one secondhand lpg carrier in 2008.
B
Steady progress
Indonesia is plotting a course that will see its national shipping industry
develop in sustainable fashion, aided by stricter cabotage requirements
shipping, agree overseas players installed in Indonesia
aka Singgih, md of Bumi Laut Group, says,
such
as Singapore-listed Marco Polo Marine, a tug
‘Indonesia is very familiar with problems –
and
barge
operator and repairer. Ceo Sean Lee says
both natural and man-made,’ says. He
2009
will
be
a more ‘challenging’ year than 2008,
believes that after coming through the
when
the
company’s
net profit rose 33% to S$11m,
economic crisis of 1998 and the 2004 tsunami, the
and
that
the
company’s
main focus will shirt towards
country is now better equipped than before to
ship
repair
as
that
sector
is ‘quite healthy’ at present.
weather the current global economic storm.
Marco Polo’s first drydock is already in
Singgih (pictured), who is also a
place on Batam Island, a growing ship
member of parliament of the Republic of
services base lying just off Singapore, and
Indonesia, describes the country’s
later this year another drydock and a
shipping industry as being at a major
jetty will be completed.
turning point with a the renewed focus
Operating out of Indonesia has not
on cabotage laws, which have long been
always been ‘straightforward’ for a
in place but never really been enforced. In
company like Marco Polo, concedes
May 2008 the Government issued a new
Lee, but on the whole has been a
shipping
law
affirming
the ■ Jaka Singgih
‘positive’ experience.
implementation of cabotage to restrict
Singgih believes that while the Indonesian
foreign flagged ships from carrying certain types of
government has a roadmap for the country’s
cargo within the Indonesian archipelago – with its
economic development, things are not moving fast
thousands of islands and extensive coastline.
enough for the shipping industry to really develop. He
Indonesian investment in shipping – as gauged by
mentions poor port infrastructure, congestion, low
the size of the national flag fleet – as well as cargo
productivity and bureaucracy as all posing obstacles.
volumes have both been on the rise of late, reported
To fully tap the opportunities that are out there the
Oentoro Surya, president of PT Arpeni Pratama Ocean
Indonesian shipping sector must embrace foreign
Line and chairman of the Indonesian National
participation and collaboration, he says, and move
Shipowners’ Association (INSA), speaking at the
away from an inward-looking mindset and reliance
Maritime Indonesia event last November. The national
on a protected market. Hence his decision to chair the
fleet rose from about 6,000 ships in 2005 to more
newly formed Indonesian Shipping Association
than 7,800 in 2008, while the portion of domestic
Turning to his own Bumi Laut Group, which
maritime trade carried by Indonesian vessels
owns, manages and operates some 30 ships,
increased from 55% in 2005 to 65% in 2007.
Singgih says business is strong throughout the
According to Oentoro, Indonesian shipowners
shipping agency, chartering, tramping of bulk
see application of the cabotage law as helping to
cargoes and energy transportation business units.
mitigate the impact of global shipping turbulence
He tells Seatrade that the group has plans to
as it empowers national shipping and allows for
extend the reach of it shipmanagement and
better financing.
shipbroking operations into third-party business.
Significantly, Indonesia may be about to go into
Logistics, inland support services and marine and
election mode, when the government is expected to
offshore businesses will also all be priority growth
spend to improve the business climate, which may
sectors, he says, with the group’s experience and
explain why the government is predicting a 2009
skills, honed over three generations, allowing it to
growth rate of 6.2%, down slightly from 6.4% in 2008.
navigate through the current ‘choppy seas’. ■
Cabotage laws are expected to boost national
J
■ Hadi Surya
President commissioner
Hadi Surya points out that
more than 90% of group
business is derived from cross
trades, with Indonesian state oil
and gas company Pertamina
contributing only about 6% - a
proportion that may change as
the cabotage laws kick in and
Pertamina’s current 75%
reliance on foreign hulls is
wound down. Otherwise no
single client represents more
than 5% of total business, he
says, which serves to spread
and minimise risk.
BLT has been listed in
Singapore since 2006, and
reported a net profit of $161m
for the FY to end September.
Acquisition of Chembulk
Tankers in 2007 contributed to
the improved result, and the
company now lays claim to
being the world’s second largest
owner/operator of IMO Type II
chemical tankers. It currently
has another 17 vessels on order
of which 12 are chemical
tankers with IMO Type II/III
classification and stainless steel
cargo tanks and another five
gas tankers, all for delivery
between 2009 and 2012.
March/April 2009
45
SOUTH EAST ASIA
MALAYSIA
■ Port of Tanjung Pelepas
Revised targets
Malaysian shipping in general, and ports in particular, are reassessing
previous plans for growth in light of the current slowdown in trade
he jury is still out on how the Malaysian
shipping industry will cope with the
economic downturn but ‘already some
players are reeling from falling demand
for their services,’ says Maritime Institute of
Malaysia (Mima) research fellow Nazery Khalid.
‘Even the mighty have not been spared.’
Case in point is Malaysia's leading international
shipping line, MISC Bhd, which recently cancelled
orders for new chemical tankers placed with a
Korean yard in the wake of gloomy prospect in the
chemical tanker trade. It also scrapped a RM3.2bn
bid to takeover oil services company Ramunia
Holdings Bhd in November 2008.
While MISC’s container operations – especially
on badly hit Asia-Europe services – have likewise
been affected, these represent a smaller proportion
of overall business than the energy trades. In its
core business of LNG, where the company owns
one of the world's largest LNG fleets of nearly 30
tankers, prospects still look good.
But arguably the biggest question mark
hanging over Malaysian shipping concerns the
government’s ambitious target for national ports
to triple their current throughput handling
capability by 2020 and in particular to attract more
main container lines to call Malaysia. The current
slump in trade between Asia and Europe/US makes
this seem a very tall order, although intra-Asia
transhipment traffic is reported to be holding up
fairly well at present.
The Ministry of Transport, which oversees the
Maritime sector, is currently embroiled in an
investigation of its ‘soft loan’ funding for Port Klang's
Free Trade Zone (PKFZ), which effectively had to be
bailed after Jebel Ali Free Zone exited the project.
T
‘We can emerge as a
stronger, more
resilient port when the
economy picks up.’
Capt. Ismail Hashim
ceo, PTP
48
March/April 2009
Port of Tanjung Pelepas (PTP), the country's
main transhipment hub, managed to marginally
grow traffic 1% last year to 5.6m, largely thanks to
‘local’ hinterland throughput up by more than 40%
or 94,000teu from the 2007 level of 218,000teu.
Main liner customers are Maersk, Evergreen, MISC
and most recently Hapag Lloyd.
New ceo Capt. Ismail Hashim explains that as a
major transhipment port, PTP is very much
dependent on international trade. ‘It is important
for us to weather the crisis in an effective manner
so that we can emerge as a stronger, more resilient
port when the economy picks up,’ he tells Seatrade.
The coming year will therefore be a highly
challenging for both PTP and the liner industry, he
says, as both will have ‘to manage costs, even as
they still explore opportunities to increase
throughput volume’.
PTP is currently developing berths 11 and 12,
which will provide another 720mtr of wharf space
to the south of Berth 10, bringing the total
quayside length to nearly 4.4km.’ Both berths,
which will be equipped with the world’s largest and
latest dual hoist cranes, are due for completion this
year, followed by backlot with space for 40,000teu.
Total investment will be about RM750m.
Ensuing plans for berths 13 and 14 have been
put on hold, however, pending more favourable
economic conditions.
Port Klang last year handled 7.97m teu, a rise of
12% year-on-year, through its two facilities
Northport and Westports.
Northport posted the lower increase of only 7%
due to its greater exposure to import and export
cargo handling. Growth is expected to further slow
this year.
SOUTH EAST ASIA
MALAYSIA
■ Port Klang
Westports recorded a stronger performance,
growing volumes 15% to 4.97m teu last year.
Executive chairman Tan Sri G. Gnanalingam is
being realistic, however, in setting the 2009 target
back down at 4.5m teu, deferring the attempt to
‘beat the 5m teu mark’ until 2010. He also derives
understandable pride from the port having snaffled
two world records for productivity, in one case
working on a new vessel belonging to main
Westports client CMA CGM.
Gnanalingam's son and Wesports executive
director, Ruben Emir Gnanalingam, has gone on
record advising stakeholders and staff ‘not be overalarmed by the bleak outlook predicted for Malaysia’s
economy in 2009’. He
assured them that the
company has taken every
step possible to make sure
they are ready for the
economic crisis. ‘Looking
forward, in 2009, we will
be embarking on plans to
consolidate our business in
terms of processes, skills of
employees
and
our
improvement initiatives
company wide in a
relatively quieter period.’
He assured employees that ‘there will be no
retrenchment or reduction in our workforce except
for the non-performers’.
The maritime sector will remain critical to
Malaysia's development, as 95% of the country’s
international trade is seaborne and all its oil and
gas resources lie offshore, believes Mima’s Nazeri.
He predicts the current economic turmoil will
result in the survival of the fittest and make the
industry less fragmented. ‘Players in the industry
who grit their teeth and weather the current
storm will be rewarded for their resolve and
patience once the global economy and trade
volumes rebound.’ ■
■ Tan Sri G. Gnanalingam,
Westports chairman
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March/April 2009
49

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