Singapore’s increase in port charges in two phases, starting next year, is to cover rising costs for safe navigation and were in the pipeline even before the coronavirus pandemic, the head of the Maritime and Port Authority of Singapore said April 12.
“There are definitely additional costs due to pandemic disruption but the port dues rates were being discussed for two years,” MPA CEO Quah Ley Hoon told reporters in the run-up to the Singapore Maritime Week that commences April 19.
She also said the country will be part of the global program to vaccinate international seafarers, regardless of origin.
To be sure, the industry is being given at least nine months to adjust to the higher rates before they come into force, she said.
In Phase I, which will take effect from January 2022, port charges will rise by around 6% for cargo and passenger ships that stay between two and four days in Singapore for loading or unloading.
Port charges for a ship entering Singapore for two days will be $8.50 for every 100 gross tons, up from the current $8.
All ships that stay in port for a day or less will not see any increase in port dues next year as this will encourage quicker turnarounds so that Singapore can serve more ships.
Phase 2 will take effect from January 2023 when port dues rates, or charters, will also increase for ships that stay in port for a day or less for not only loading or unloading cargoes and passengers but also taking bunkers or supplies and crew changes.
“The higher rates are aimed at ensuring safety of navigation and its rising expenses,” the CEO said.
Port charges fund the maintenance of Singapore’s fairways, anchorages and aids to navigation, which are vital to the navigational safety of port users.
“MPA did extensive consultation with the industry before finalizing the new rates,” said Caroline Yang, president of Singapore Shipping Association.
MPA has also pointed out that these payments fund the vessel traffic management system, and other systems used for the management of Singapore’s port waters. These costs have increased since port dues rates were last revised in 2014.
The MPA CEO said that Singapore is not insisting that seafarers should be vaccinated before disembarking at its port terminals. On the other hand, the country plans to be part of a global collaboration to vaccinate the international seafaring community.
Global allocation of vaccines will have to be done for such an initiative and the country is in touch with the International Maritime Organization, which in turn is in talks with the World Health Organization.
“We don’t want to pre-empt anything but as and when such collaboration happens, Singapore will do its part,” she said. Almost all workers employed on port in Singapore but not boarding a ship have already been vaccinated.
Rising operational costs
Due to the pandemic-related disruption, the costs of operating ships has gone up, SSA’s Yang said.
“Hull and Machinery and Protection and Indemnity insurance premiums have hardened,” she said. Two key sectors involving an increase in costs relate to the time spent for quarantine and airfares during the signing-in and signing-off of crew, Yang said.
Crew wages have gone up as their deployment procedure and duration onboard has become longer. In most countries, crew changes involve a 14-day quarantine period. Singapore also insists on a negative coronavirus test in the previous port of call, which can be a challenge.
According to Singapore rules, the crew must have a negative coronavirus test, a PCR test taken at a government-approved or ISO 15189-accredited testing facility at their country of origin not more than 72 hours prior to departure for Singapore.
Signing-on and signing-off crew may stay at designated holding facilities for up to 72 hours. However, Yang pointed out that it is a challenge to match the schedules of ships with those of flights involved in crew changes.
A crew is permitted to join its ship not more than two days before the ship’s final departure from Singapore, according to the rules.