Port operators report higher volume in March


PETALING JAYA: A number of port operators in the country have reported higher throughput volume for March but are cautious about volume going forward as the signs of recovery are still weak.

According to them, imports and exports as measured by twenty-foot equivalent units (TEUs) were up for March while transhipments – the shipment of goods to an intermediate destination before moving to another destination – were also up.

Westports Malaysia Sdn Bhd executive chairman Tan Sri G. Gnanalingam had noted earlier in a commentary that in March, Westports’ total volume, including imports, exports and transhipments, was up 10% compared with the previous three months.

He said the immediate question that came to mind was whether these were signs of recovery or if this was due to inventory corrections after managers cancelled their orders between October and December last year.

“As such, between April and June, we’ll begin to notice that the world will not only reinstate its inventory levels but also increase its orders simply because life must go on,” Gnanalingam said.

Captain Ismail Hashim, chief executive officer of Port of Tanjung Pelepas Sdn Bhd, which operates the number one transhipment port in the country, said volume grew 23% to 469,000 TEUs for March compared with February.

He said it was tricky to accurately predict the underlying reasons behind the recent increase in volume. “Whether the increase is sustainable over the longer term remains to be seen,” Ismail told StarBiz in an e-mail reply.

He said if the recent upturn was due to restocking of manufacturers’ orders as a result of them halting production abruptly earlier on when the crisis first started then the spike in volume could be “just a temporary pattern.”

Penang Port Sdn Bhd general manager Obaid Mansor said the Butterworth container terminal saw a bottoming in January when throughput was 30% lower than October 2008.

“The upturn in business was really registered in the export transhipment trade provided by our industrial hinterland,” he said, adding that a combination of improved demand for manufactured products, re-stocking, trade credit availability and demand from China and India could be the factors that contributed to an improvement in volume.

By FINTAN NG

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