Ship lay-up woes could worsen
If more ships are laid up in the waters around Singapore, it would pose a difficult situation in the future, warned prominent shipmanager Thome's general manager of its marine consulting arm.
'I believe there should be some sort of agreement between Singapore, Malaysia and Indonesia to deal with the situation,' said Thome Marine Consultants general manager Raul Matovic.
The outside port limits anchorages, commonly referred to as OPL, are stretches of water just outside the port limits of the respective ports and the approaches to the port.
They are generally unsupervised and unregulated.
The demand for lay-up services continues to rise as the shipping industry remains in the doldrums.
While the majority of big shipowners and operators would not lay up their vessels in these places, there are smaller operators that may have no qualms about doing so.
Thome provides services for owners to lay up their ships properly and only anchors vessels in approved anchorages in Labuan and Batam.
And if the level of enquiries that Mr Matovic is seeing for these services is mirrored in the non-approved sector of the lay-up market there is set to be an explosion of ships at OPL anchorages.
The outside port limits anchorage problem is not just in the waters around Singapore.
In the Middle East, a lay-up anchorage is starting to emerge around Fujairah as ships trading the Middle East and Europe start to find refuge there.
Reputable lines like Maersk, Mitsui OSK Lines and NYK Lines will not jeopardise their reputation and expensive vessels, some of which are fresh out of the newbuild yards, by laying them up in unapproved areas.
There are risks from collision as well as safety and maintenance issues, Mr Matovic pointed out. But with so many ships being mothballed, both anchorage space and the capacity of the ship managers is being stretched.
'Lay-up anchorages are getting very full and I know of at least four managers that are not taking anymore ships,' said Mr Matovic, adding that there are currently an estimated 100 ships laid-up off Batam.
'The level of enquiries has been hot,' he said.
Mr Matovic said he would ideally not like to take on more than 20 vessels at a time for his lay-up services in order to maintain the level of service that Thome guarantees, although this might be increased if more space is found near Batam, where it is easy for the supervisors to monitor the vessels from Singapore.
It is a big responsibility as Thome takes care of everything from dealing with the port authorities to handling the paperwork as well as the technical aspects such as ensuring the ship's equipment is maintained and the vessel is able to be reactivated quickly and without problems when there is a need for it.