Now that the lockdowns and restrictions linked with the pandemic are being gradually relaxed or even phased out in many parts of the world, Southeast Asian ports are hoping that this will give a strong impetus to cargo traffic, including the breakbulk segment.

Indeed, many in Southeast Asia discern a propensity towards breakbulk, heavy lift cargo, etc., as costs of container shipments have soared exacerbated by supply chain disruptions that have caused considerable distress to both shippers and their importers.

“For some of us shipping to the U.S., the chaos and long delays in shipment clearances at some American ports gave us sleepless nights and there was a general feeling that we have to look for alternatives that would ensure smooth trading,” said Mark Nguyen whose company organized shipments from Vietnam to the West Coast last year.

Energy Sector Growth

Experts predict that growth in Southeast Asia’s energy sector will drive breakbulk demand with operators relying on heavy lift services and complex logistics, as the maritime dedicated Wallem Ship Agency has been saying. Demand for wind turbines is expected to remain strong, even though some bottlenecks in traffic would continue to push freight rates in the ASEAN (Association of Southeast Asian Nations) region.

After the pandemic downturn, Southeast Asia appears to be on the path to becoming one of the world’s fastest recovering regions – Malaysia’s GDP, for example, rose 14.2% in the July-September 2022 period from a year ago, according to Bank Negara Malaysia - and some pundits predict that Southeast Asia is well positioned to drive growth in the cargo sector.

Southeast Asia has major energy sector-related projects that are either in the pipeline or already completed; these are expected to benefit the breakbulk segment. These projects – one example is Singaporean developer Sunseap’s floating solar farm and energy storage facility on the Indonesian island of Batam - are considered to be crucial for generating strong demand for breakbulk handling.

The Philippine conglomerate Ayala is building five wind farms in Vietnam. The projects, to be developed by its subsidiary AC Energy, are expected to deliver a combined capacity of 440 megawatts once fully operational. “As turbine and project sizes grow, we expect an increase in demand for all types of multipurpose vessels and general cargo ships,” predicts Oscar Guzman, Filipino analyst who closely monitors energy trends in Southeast Asia.

Overcoming Bottlenecks

But many also see challenges facing breakbulk operators in the region. Though significant improvements have been made, there are still major bottlenecks in inland transport infrastructure in Southeast Asia, as firms frequently need to build their own connecting solutions which can raise the overall costs. Handling breakbulk cargo in these countries requires specific resources. The inland logistics challenges can often be an area that is overlooked.

ASEAN representatives are aware that the 10-member nation grouping has considerable work to do to raise and upgrade its infrastructure which will benefit breakbulk and project cargo service providers. Infrastructure development will drive growth in all…

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