Westports awaits clearer signal


Port operator will expand terminal if global economy keeps improving

PETALING JAYA: Westports Malaysia Sdn Bhd will commence its RM600mil terminal expansion next year if the global economy keeps improving and starts contributing to the growth of its container volume.

Executive director Ruben Emir Gnanalingam said the project to build container terminal six was to have started last year but was postponed as the port had not reached its internal trigger point that should prompt the expansion for extra capacity.

“Our capacity now is about seven million twenty-foot equivalent units (TEUs) and we expect to handle only 4.3 million to 4.4 million TEUs this year.

“All the tender specifications for the project are ready as they are quite similar to our previous terminal expansion projects,” he told StarBiz.

Ruben said Westports had recently revised upward its targeted volume for this year from four million TEUs due to the month-on-month steady growth from the first quarter.

“The earlier target for 2009 was lower due to the sharp slump trend started in the last quarter last year.

“But the trend has been improving in the second quarter with average monthly volume of 360,000 TEUs, and even better in the current quarter with 400,000 TEUs,” he said.

Year-on-year, he added, the current third quarter still fared behind as Westports did very well in its third quarter last year with a record-breaking 475,000 TEUs in August.

Westports handled about 4.97 million TEUs in 2008.

On the global economic crisis, Ruben said Westports managed to identify and practised sustainable cost-cutting measures during the not “too busy” period to be more resilient in the future.

“We have not been able to really study our cost-saving measures previously as we were too busy with the rapid growth. But now, once we have identified the areas where we can cut costs, we will sustain the practice.

“We also managed to focus on intensive staff training in the lull period as Westports did not retrench any workers although its volume was down earlier in the year,” he said, noting that the port employed about 3,250 workers.

He said the training and cost-cutting measures made the port even more prepared to seize opportunities when the economy picked up.

On its mission to make Port Klang a bigger hub in the region, Ruben said Westports, which recently celebrated its 15th anniversary, would continue to focus on enhancing its productivity and services.

“We will also be looking at improving bunkering and feedering activities at the port,” he said.

Feedering is a process where smaller ports feed containers to hub ports as the latter have higher connectivity due to more calls made by shipping lines, while bunkering is fuel supply services to vessels.

Westports’ feedering activities come from ports in South-East Asia and India.

He said it was important for Port Klang to strive to be a bigger hub as it would not only benefit the port but also local importers and exporters.

“There is a huge difference between the freight rates of a non-hub port and a hub port. The freight rates at the hub port is cheaper due to the competitiveness of the many shipping lines, volume and the availability of empty containers,” he said.

Ruben said Westports had come a long way from its inception in 1994 and would continue focusing on sustainable development that included the Pulau Indah community and the environment.

“Apart from making the island more industrious with job opportunities and supporting services to the port, we now want to make it more friendly with communal facilities.

“For the environment, Westports – which is already known for its ‘garden port’ concept – will try to plant more trees,” he said.

By : Sharidan M. Ali

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