Singapore quells safety fears over port crowding
By Marcus Hand in Singapore - Monday 6 April 2009
THE Singapore authorities have hit out at suggestions that its anchorages are congested with idle vessels, resulting in concerns over navigational safety.
“Over recent months, the utilisation rate of our anchorages has been fairly stable. In other words, our anchorages have not become more crowded as a result of the economic downturn. Concerns over increasing congestion are hence unfounded,” Maritime & Port Authority port master Lee Cheng Wee said in reply to queries from Lloyd’s List.
Last week the American P&I Club warned in a circular of an increased risk of collisions outside port limits anchorages close to Singapore due to the large number of vessels at anchor.
“It would appear that the most recent spate of collisions has occurred at the eastern OPL anchorage, where a number of ships maneuvering within the area have collided with vessels already at anchor,” the club said.
Vessel owners choose to anchor OPL to avoid paying port dues and pilotage fees as it falls outside of the jurisdiction of the MPA.
Last month the West of England P&I Club advised owners to take bunkers inside port limits due to the high level of congestion due to idle vessels at the both the eastern and western OPL anchorages increasing the risk of collisions.
According to the MPA, around 3,800 vessels use Singapore’s anchorages every month with 400-500 at anchor on any given day.
While this number may is stable, industry sources estimated that this two to three times the number of vessels at anchor on average during the recent boom years.
Visual checks by Lloyd’s List confirmed the Eastern anchorages to look very crowded with a growing number of offshore support vessels adding to the larger ships at anchor.
Somewhat surprisingly the MPA claimed that there were no vessels laid-up in Singapore port waters.
“While hundreds of ships are reported to be laid up across the globe, there are no vessels laid up in the Singapore port. Singapore does not encourage the laying up of vessels in our port waters, due to the limited sea space available,” Capt Lee said.
However, he did note an increase in the number of vessels at anchor for over 10 days to around 70 each month of which around 30 were awaiting orders.
“Despite an increase in vessel arrivals and the small number of vessels staying more than 10 days every month, the industry can rest assure that Singapore has sufficient anchorage capacity to meet the needs of the shipping industry, and that concerns over congestion and navigational safety are not warranted,” Capt Lee said.
Singapore offers port dues reductions for vessels staying less than 10 days.
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