The landscape of global maritime industries is possibly one of the most expeditious in pivoting to sustainability and digitalization due to the needs of the sector, and core nature of its operations. This is where global port and supply chain operators have to step up and provide attainable and feasible solutions to cargo stakeholders. One of the global leaders in this is PSA International. Ong Kim Pong, Regional CEO for Southeast Asia, speaks with Maritime Fairtrade to share about his life, thoughts, and the transformation PSA is striving towards.
What is a typical morning routine on a weekday like for you?
Enjoying a good cup of coffee while having a quick read of volume charts and communique are the first things I do. After that, I glean from my motivational calendar for inspiration. Today, it quoted poet Pam Brown (1928): “Happiness is a quiet, perpetual rejoicing in small events.”
These simple pleasures keep me focused and positive as I kick start each workday so that I can engage in meaningful conversations, deliberations, and connections.
What do you find exciting about the maritime industry?
There has never been a dull moment throughout my over twenty years of career in the maritime industry. The industry has evolved extensively and experienced dramatic shifts. These include the exponential growth of container vessel sizes, the emergence of mega shipping alliances and more recently, a change in cargo types and flows with the growing protectionism and e-consumerism around the world. It still continues to transform in current times, with the industry’s focus shifting towards digitalization and sustainability.
COVID-19 has also accentuated the importance of a resilient supply chain to trade flows and a world in crisis. As a global port operator and a trusted supply chain partner to cargo stakeholder, PSA has been taking proactive steps to innovate, create new values and leverage our connectivity to improve efficiency of supply chains and in turn, better enable global trade.
Our vision is driving our progress, and our progress is driving change. This continuous pursuit of growth is exciting and learning never ceases in the maritime industry.
You have held leadership positions in PSA all over the world – Mediterranean/South Asia, Belgium/Europe, Northeast Asia, Southeast Asia. How forward-thinking and future-ready is Southeast Asia’s (SEA) maritime industry as compared to the rest of the world?
The maritime industry has historically been vital to the SEA region and continues to play an integral role in allowing it to flourish. Out of the top 50 seaports in 2022, 10 of them are from SEA, highlighting the region’s importance and competitiveness in this industry globally.
Meanwhile, capital inflow into the ASEAN region reached a record high in 2021 and remains favorable with the diversification of manufacturing supply chains by multinational companies as well as the rapidly growing consumer markets in SEA. Cargo flows within the SEA trading bloc have stayed resilient throughout the pandemic and are increasing, as is its trade with the rest of the world.
Having members embedded in the two largest free trade agreements namely, the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership and the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership, is also stimulating growth within and for the region.
Being cognizant of the significance of port infrastructure and facilities to trade, several ASEAN countries have announced ambitious projects that will increase their port capacity and capabilities to fan this trade growth and drive economic development locally and regionally.
For instance, Singapore is developing Tuas Port into a well-connected maritime hub and the nexus of a wider integrated logistics ecosystem. When completed, Tuas Port is envisioned to be the world’s largest automated, smart and green port with an annual handling capacity of 65 million twenty-foot equivalent units. Adjacent to it will be a cargo complex, Port+ Hub, which offers complementary freight, warehousing, and cargo handling services that enables Singapore to unlock supply chain synergies and capture growth in the region and beyond.
Developments as such certainly bode well for the future and vibrancy of SEA’s maritime industry.
What does Singapore need to do more of to solidify her as a global leader?
Singapore has been recognized by the world as a leading international maritime center. As a city state with no hinterland, Singapore must constantly harness her unparalleled connectivity to retain her status. Leveraging the combination of its class-leading sea and air hubs, Singapore can offer scale and unrivalled multimodal options to ensure seamless cargo transfers at a faster transit time and lower cost.
Establishing bilateral economic networks such as the International Land-Sea Trade Corridor (ILSTC), which connects China’s western provinces and Southeast Asia through rail and sea links, can also expand Singapore’s trade connectivity and further enhance flow of goods.
Singapore must also deepen her capabilities in innovation and uplift technological capabilities. Investing in research and development fosters collaboration between research institutes and the industry, and in turn co-creates solutions that pushes productivity and sustainability efforts to new frontiers.
Today, PSA and the Energy Market Authority are test-bedding the smart grid management systems with battery energy storage system in Pasir Panjang Terminal to yield better energy management, carbon emissions and operational costs through the optimization of energy efficiency in our port operations. I believe successful implementation of novel solutions as such will give Singapore an edge in knowledge and technological leadership.
Lastly, Singapore’s true natural resource is her people. With the constant transformation in the industry and rapid technological advancements, it is imperative to nurture an agile, resilient and future-ready maritime workforce to bring the industry forward. Governments and companies alike must be willing to continuously upskill and reskill, build up technological quotient, and augment vital expertise to stay ahead and ride the waves of transformation.
What are the changes that PSA International will be adopting to prepare for the digitalization and decarbonization of the maritime industry in Singapore?
In addition to our port domain and our foray into the supply chain space, PSA has been harnessing technology, data and partnerships to offer smarter and greener end-to-end solutions for the supply chains of today and tomorrow.
Over the years, PSA has developed digital solutions spanning the breath of the supply chain ecosystem. From our traditional strengths in ports, powered by our terminal operating systems, we have extended our digital reach to adjacent port, marine and logistics communities, furthering our digital capabilities in supply chain orchestration.
In Singapore, we have curated targeted digital solutions complementary to our physical port capabilities to address pain points and provide added value to the shipping lines and shippers. With PSA’s suite of ‘plug and play’ digital products, users can gain flexibility to improve vessel slot utilization and visibility to ensure reliable shipment schedules, fast turn-around and cargo connections at ports on top of a reliable transit time.
For instance, CMA CGM has adopted PSA’s OptEArrive digital solution to enable its vessels to skip anchorage stop and arrive just-in-time at berth in Singapore. This solution synchronizes transparent real time activities and automates data exchange between systems, providing vessels with intel to optimize their speed for more timely berthing. This reduces carbon emissions and the vessels are expected to achieve an annualized bunker saving of four to seven percent.
On a broader level, PSA’s integration with PSA BDP has deepened our control tower capabilities with the Smart Suite and BridgeNet solutions designed to provide real-time, end-to-end visibility and control across the entire supply chain.
Digitalization has certainly paved the way for greater operational efficiency and competitiveness for PSA but more importantly, it advances our sustainability goals. At PSA, our ambition is to be a global leader in climate action and to drive sustainable growth in the port and logistics industry, and in supply chain in general. We have committed to achieving 50 percent reduction of our absolute Scope 1 and 2 carbon emissions by 2030 (against 2019 baseline year) and are working towards net-zero carbon emissions by 2050.
To achieve that, PSA is moving away from the use of diesel by choosing lower-carbon fuels such as LNG as well as electrifying our equipment. Extensive electrification will allow us to further abate our carbon emissions as we adopt green electricity and optimize smart grid solutions.
Beyond Scope 1 and 2, PSA is looking at facilitating value chain emissions reduction through the provision of smart logistics solutions such as the OptETruck, a cloud-based transport management solution that enables the haulier community in Singapore to minimize unproductive or empty haulage trips through automated job pooling and route optimization. This can potentially reduce up to 5,500 empty trips daily and amount to an annual reduction of about 19kt of CO2 emissions.
Sustainable procurement, waste management, fugitive refrigerants and repurposing of batteries are other areas PSA is exploring to further abate our Scope 3 emissions.
Be it digitalization, decarbonization or both, we believe in collaborating with like-minded stakeholders to develop an ecosystem that steers collective action towards sustainable change. To achieve that, PSA joined the Maritime Port Authority of Singapore and Port of Rotterdam Authority as an Action Partner to establish the world’s longest Green and Digital Corridor to enable zero carbon shipping. This green corridor involves piloting sustainable shipping technologies, optimizing efficiency through data exchanges and converging green fuel uptake along the shipping route.
PSA is also a member of ‘The Silk Alliance’, a cross supply-chain maritime partnership initiated by Lloyd’s Register Maritime Decarbonization Hub and 12 other industry leaders, to develop a fleet-specific fuel transition strategy for the intra-Asia container trade, based on the Hub’s First Movers Framework.
Albeit our efforts, PSA is only a cog in the wheel. We do what we can and will welcome like-minded organizations to come alongside and steward the maritime industry towards a smarter, greener and better future.
All photos credit: PSA International