Singapore Remains Largest Bunker Port and Handles Record 37.5M TEU

Singapore rcoed TEU and largest bunker sales
Singapore retained the title as the busiest transshipment port as well as the world's largest bunker market (file photo)

Published Jan 13, 2022 6:09 PM by The Maritime Executive

Singapore remained the world’s busiest transshipment and bunkering port in 2021 despite the ongoing impact of the pandemic. Port officials are highlighting a new record for the total number of containers passing through the port as well as strength in most sectors of the operation as they look to increase digitalization to maintain their leadership especially in the bunker operations.

The Maritime and Port Authority reports that Singapore closed 2021 with a record container throughput of 37.5 million TEUs. While Shanghai remains the world’s busiest overall container port, handling in 2020 for example 43.5 million TEU, Singapore leads in transshipments. The volume grew nearly two percent in 2021 marking the second time Singapore had a throughout of more than 37 million boxes. Port officials said Singapore was positioned to help containerships reroute and shorten journeys during the supply chain crisis while also keeping the port open for crew changes helping it to rebound from the effects of the pandemic.

While below the peak levels recorded in 2018, cargo tonnage also rebounded significantly in 2021. Singapore reported handling 599 million tons last year up from just under 591 million tons in 2020 but below the 630 million tons in 2018.

“Maritime Singapore has shown itself to be resilient despite the challenges of the pandemic over the past two years,” said Minister for Transport and Minister-in-charge of Trade Relations Mr. S. Iswaran. “I am confident that the continued strong tripartite partnership between the government, industry and unions will see us through the recovery phase and allow Maritime Singapore to emerge even stronger.”

The pandemic may however also have contributed to a decline in the overall number of ship calls in Singapore during 2021 based on gross tonnage. Arrivals based on tonnage were down by three percent. The MPA recorded a similar decline in the total tonnage for Singapore registered ships in 2021, while it remains among the world’s largest registries.

Singapore also kept its position as the top bunkering port, registering a total sales volume of 50.04 million tons in 2021, only the second time bunker sales have topped the 50 million ton mark. Port officials pointed to the diversification of the port’s bunker business with regular ship-to-ship LNG bunkering operations having begun in March 2021. Sales for the year included 49.99 million tons of conventional bunkers and 0.05 million tons of LNG. 

Outlining a strategy that includes focusing on digitalization and decarbonization, the transport minister said Singapore was evolving to continue to meet the needs of the shipping industry. He announced to support the future development of the port and its operations that the Maritime and Port Authority of Singapore was awarding close to S$3 million (US$2.2 million) in funding to eight projects involving 35 companies working together to accelerate the development of digital products and solutions for the bunkering sector.

While many ports across Asia and around the world are reporting increasing congestion, Singapore highlighted that its operations had the fastest turnaround times among all ports in Southeast Asia. Further, with the opening of the new Tuas Port, Singapore will also have a greater capacity to transship more containers supporting the future growth of the shipping business.