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Westports targets 6.3m TEUs for 2011

31 AUGUST 2011, PETALING JAYA - Port operator Westports Malaysia Sdn Bhd is optimistic of surpassing its targeted 6.3 million twenty-foot equivalent units (TEUs) container volume for 2011 compared with last year's 5.6 million TEUs as the port benefits from the expected increase in global trade.

Its CEO Ruben Emir Gnanalingam said Westports is well positioned to capture this additional volume as it has taken all measures to boost capacity and manpower.

The port's volume for the first six months was 3.09 million TEUs, up 17% from 2.65 million TEUs during the same period last year. Westports' share of the Port Klang market is 66%.

Ruben said the target is in line with the industry's expected moderate growth of 8.4% this year as volumes return to more sustainable levels.

Westports is undergoing expansion to cater for container volume growth, he said, adding that it made a 20-year sukuk musharakah issuance of up to RM2 billion in nominal value to raise funds.

He said the issue was mainly to finance the company's expansion as volume had grown tremendously since the economic recovery last year.

"We are currently expanding very heavily to build more capacity. This year we are slightly congested as there is no room for new shipping lines (clients) at the moment," Ruben said.

He said the port operator is committed to add over 1.2km of additional berth and the first 300km quay line soon, with an additional 900km to be completed in 2013.

"This is the first time we are facing congestion. Usually we are very much supply driven and advance but in the 2009 crisis, we were caught badly. It was a bad year and the volume went down. So, we decided to postpone all our development plans," he said, adding that it is quite a challenge for the port operator to get its clients' loading and offloading done as fast as possible.

The port operator is also trying to achieve a faster turnaround in order to provide better service to clients, he said.

He said Westports delivers average crane productivity of 35 gross moves per hour. Currently, its capacity is about seven million TEUS.

Ruben said once the 300km quay line is ready, the port will have a capacity of 7.5 million TEUs and when the additional 900km quay line is completed, the capacity will climb to nine million TEUs.

Besides serving its existing clients, he said Westports is also expecting new shipping lines to call at the port.

Currently, he said, 28 main line operators and 30 feeders call at the port. They include CMA CGM, China Shipping Container Lines, Goldstar, CSAV Norasia, Delmas, Evergreen Marine, APL, MSC Shipping and Hanjin.

Ruben said with the local and global economies having improved significantly in the first half of 2011, shipping consultants have forecast better performance for ports this year.

He said the primary risk to this projection lies with the continued recoveries of the US and European economies.

"While we expand the port physically and install state-of-the-art technology, the company will also invest in human capital in tandem with the expected surge in volume," he said.

He said the port expects to grow its local workforce to 5,000 by 2013 from the present 3,500.

Source: The Sun