Port Klang sees slower than hoped rebound of China container volumes

Port Klang is the world’s 12th largest container port and saw a 4% contraction in box volumes last year to 13.22 million teu. Overall Port Klang maintained fairly steady volumes during the Covid pandemic in the 13.2 million to 13.7 million teu range annually.

Speaking to Seatrade Maritime News at the Langkawi International Maritime & Aerospace 2023 exhibition last week K Subramanian, General Manager of Port Klang Authority, said, “We’ve seen that there’s also a lot of local cargo being generated and we’ve seen our local imports exports growing for the last five years. Even during the Covid we were achieving about 3% to 4% growth every year for local cargo.”

The growth in local cargo helped to offset a dip in transhipment volumes during the pandemic.

This year however local volume growth has slowed due to issues with demand for cargo and high energy prices, and Subramanian said they expect growth to local cargoes to around 2% in 2023.

Meanwhile China volumes haven’t recovered as quickly as hoped. “With China reopening we though we would be back to where we were three or four years ago before the Covid, but it’s not as fast as what we thought,” he said.

Around 70% of Port Klang’s volumes come from Asian trade with China its biggest trading partner and followed by the Asean region of which Malaysia is part.

For volumes to the US like others Port Klang has experienced a drop in volume as US imports have fallen back sharply from historic highs during the pandemic. Subramanian says Port Klang has seen around a 10% drop in volumes on the Transpacific, which is significantly lower than the drop in volumes seen at key US West Coast Gateway ports such as Los Angeles and Long Beach where first quarter 2023 throughput was down around 30%.

On the long-haul trades Port Klang serves both the Ocean Alliance and THE Alliance. With the dissolution of the 2M of Maersk and MSC an opportunity is presented for Port Klang to win over calls from MSC, which calls the Port of Tanjung Pelepas in Malaysia’s, 30% owned by Maersk’s APM Terminals. “Yes, I think it opens up a whole window of opportunity for us to talk to MSC,” he said.

On the growth front the existing 13 million teu capacity Westports terminal is going to be expanded with the reclamation of an additional 5 km of quay. Expected to be developed over a 15-year period this would double Westports capacity to 26 million teu. Combined with the existing 6 million teu in capacity at Northport this would total capacity at Port Klang to 33 million teu from 19 million teu at present.

Beyond that is the mega-port project on Carey Island which Seatrade Maritime News covered in detail last week and you can read about here.

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