Speech by Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong at the Official Opening of Tuas Port on 1 September 2022.
Mr Peter Voser, Chairman of PSA International
Ladies and Gentlemen
I am very happy to be here for this very important milestone of PSA.
Three years ago, I came here to launch the development work for Tuas Port. I am very happy to see that just 3 years after, progress is on track, despite all of the troubles which COVID-19 caused us and we completed phase I last December and ships are calling, and the port is in operation. Well done PSA.
I spoke about Tuas Port a couple of weeks ago at my recent National Day Rally to tell Singaporean how these decisions sent a clear signal to the world that Singapore is open for business and that we are going full steam ahead.
The port plays a critical role in connecting Singapore to the world economy. One third of global container trade and one quarter of the global seaborne oil trade passes through the Straits of Malacca and the Straits of Singapore every year.
We have to work hard to continue to provide efficient and reliable services along this critical artery of trade between the East and the West and connect Southeast Asia and the rest of the world and that is how Singapore established ourselves as the world’s busiest transhipment port.
Amidst all the upheavals in global supply chains because of COVID, we showed the world what we are made of. MPA, PSA, the unions, and their partners worked tirelessly to keep the port of Singapore open and running smoothly 24/7. We continued to move containers efficiently and reliably, serving as the “catch-up port” that shippers and shipping lines go to, in order to resolve operational challenges.
This success and resilience as a modern global hub didn’t happen by itself or just because of our geographic location. We owe a great deal to the visionary leadership and daring of our pioneer generation of leaders, who made strategic bets that paid off. What we now see at Tuas Port, has actually been a very long time in the making.
In 1966, we decided to build Tanjong Pagar Container Terminal. It now seems like an obvious decision now was anything but a sure bet at the time. Containerisation had yet to take off. Not a single shipping line in Asia had committed to building container ships to move goods between Europe and the Far East. A new container port required large capital outlays for container handling equipment. And yet we pushed ahead to get ready to ride the wave of containerisation. Tanjong Pagar Terminal opened in 1972, and it was the first container port in Southeast Asia. That year, we received our first container vessel, the MV Nihon, carrying all of 300 containers. And since then, container traffic in our region has just exploded and gone up multiple orders of magnitude, 37 million last year.
Over the years, we continued to grow our port and each subsequent expansion – Keppel, Brani and Pasir Panjang – was planned with an eye to the future. And it is with this same bold spirit that today, 50 years later, we officially launched Tuas Port.
As Chairman PSA noted, when completed, Tuas will have a capacity of 65 million TEUs, almost double what we handle today. And over the next two decades, as more berths come on-stream, its significance will grow, in three ways.
First, Tuas will be the port of the future. It will be the world’s largest fully-automated port. This will position Singapore well to support the growth in maritime traffic and global trade and strengthen our connectivity and capability to provide efficient and reliable services. Tuas Port can accommodate not just the largest container ships in the world today, but even larger vessels that may be built in the future. We will also manage the larger number and greater density of vessel movements safely and efficiently. For example, MPA’s next-generation vessel traffic management system (VTMS) will use artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning to predict and prevent potential collisions.
One key design feature of the port is sustainability. PSA aims to achieve net-zero carbon emissions by 2050. And port equipment like yard cranes and prime mover vehicles will be automated and run on electricity, to enhance productivity and reduce their carbon footprint. We will build green buildings, smart grid solutions and battery energy storage systems to optimise energy use.
Tuas Port will assure our international partners and shipping lines that Singapore can handle increasingly complex operations of the future. And I encourage MPA and PSA to continue to sharpen its competitive edge and never stop pushing the frontiers of automation, digitalisation, and sustainability.
Secondly, Tuas Port will be a critical engine driving the Singapore economy. It will reinforce our status as an international maritime centre and enable many related industries to flourish. The maritime sector already has more than 5,000 companies. Including major shipping lines and companies providing specialised services like shipping finance, marine insurance, maritime law, ship broking, ship management, ship agencies, and classification societies.
Tuas Port will also anchor the future Western Gateway. It will be especially convenient for nearby industries at the Jurong Lake District, Jurong Innovation District, and Jurong and Tuas industrial areas. Because being closer to the port means faster and cheaper port services and turnaround. It means more efficient production for their products to be exported to international markets. Sectors such as advanced manufacturing, cold-chains, e-commerce, and logistics will benefit most.
Third, as we develop Tuas Port, we are also creating more opportunities and better jobs for our workers. PSA already has a professional and trained team. They will continue to train and upgrade their staff, existing and new, to handle the next generation of hardware and software deployed at the port. For their part, port workers have embraced the new technologies and earnestly picked up the new skills. Which will not only improve the workers’ productivity, but also make their jobs more comfortable and attractive.
Take Syed Ali for example. He started his career with PSA nearly 30 years ago, as a yard crane operator in Keppel Terminal. Back then, it was a physically demanding job. Crane operators had to climb up to the cabin at the top of each crane. Each operator could only operate one crane. When we opened Pasir Panjang Terminal Phases 3 and 4, we automated the operations. Syed was able to work from the control centre, instead of out in the yard and he could oversee multiple semi-automated yard cranes simultaneously. Tuas Port takes this automation several steps further. At Tuas, yard crane specialists will be able to oversee twice as many automated cranes at a single time, compared to Pasir Panjang. And the quay cranes have also been automated. And Syed is now a senior quay crane specialist, leading the adoption of new technologies at Tuas Port and helping fellow equipment specialists to reskill.
Another example is Arumugam S/O Maniam who joined PSA in 1989 as a trainee technician, maintaining manual, diesel-powered equipment. As our port switched to using electric vehicles and automated equipment, Arumugam continuously reskilled and kept up with the changes. He is now an Executive Engineer, leading a team of engineers and technicians to service PSA’s electric and automated fleet.
Or take Ong Si Shan. She joined PSA in 2011 as part of the planning and operations team of City Terminals, which are conventional container terminals. In one decade, her job has been transformed by automation and technology. Si Shan has kept up with these changes, learning new skills in data analytics and AI to better handle planning and operations at the new Tuas Port. Like Syed, Arumugam, and Si Shan, many other workers have seen our port evolve and improve first-hand and benefited from it.
This transformation of our port and our workforce has been made possible by the close partnership between PSA, MPA, the unions and the workers. And I am glad the tripartite partners have built up strong trust over the years which is a crucial competitive advantage for Singapore and we have to continue to nurture these relationships as we develop Tuas into the port of the future.
In building and operating Tuas Port, PSA plays a unique role as the steward of one of Singapore’s most vital pieces of infrastructure. I am grateful to the generations of PSA staff, union leaders and port workers who grasped the importance of this mission and I thank you all for your hard work and contributions. I would also like to thank MPA for keeping the construction of Tuas port on track, despite the severe disruptions caused by COVID. We have reached today’s milestone because of your collective efforts.
This opening of Tuas Port begins a new chapter in the history of the port of Singapore and I am confident this bold move will help PSA to sustain its tradition of success and secure our maritime future.
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