Where will the P3 hub in Southeast Asia be?

The Southeast Asian transhipment hub market is hugely competitive with Singapore and the Port of Tanjung Pelepas (PTP) in a massive headline grabbing battle at the start of the last decade. The question of which Southeast Asian hub port will be used by partners of the new proposed P3 mega alliance remains up in the air but analysts speculate that the most likely one to be dropped will be CMA CGM's calls at Port Klang.

The French line brings well over 2m teu a year into the main Malaysian transshipment hub, making up over a quarter of its annual throughput. It has stated previously that it aims to grow volumes by over 12% a year.

However, it is likely the final decision will be made by the partner with the biggest weightage in the alliance and the biggest stake in infrastructure, which in both cases, is Maersk. The world's top line has a 30% stake in the PTP while Mediterranean Shipping Company (MSC) has a joint venture operating a terminal in the Port of Singapore. CMA CGM meanwhile does not have any stake in Port Klang.

In addition, both MSC and CMA CGM are in the process of selling off stakes in their terminal operating units and look to be winding down their interests in that aspect of the business. Just tagging along on Maersk's vast infrastructure network would make sense.

While it is also debatable whether MSC totally gives up its joint venture operation in Singapore, it is not a decision that needs to be made hastily. If the alliance moves the bulk of operations to PTP, the difference in distance between the two ports is smaller than between Port Klang and PTP. Furthermore, as Singapore moves its container terminals further west as the leases on the city terminals run out, the distance will reduce even further. The new terminals in Tuas on the northwest coast of Singapore will be literally next door to PTP across the West Johor Strait.

Less than half of CMA CGM's volumes into Port Klang comprise local cargo and as the Iskandar region and other development projects take off in the southern state of Johor, which PTP is located in, it is likely the proportion of trade coming from that area will increase as well.

While it is unclear what other internal factors may impact the decision, on the face of it CMA CGM, with relatively the least skin in the game, will have to make the shift. And with it will ride Port Klang's fortunes.

By Vincent Wee from  Hong Kong.
Source: www.seatrade-global.com


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