Saturday, October 4, 2008

Malaysia Freight Transport Report Q3 2008

A ruling by the International Court of Justice (ICJ) in May on Malaysia and Singapore’s long-running territorial dispute over small islands in the Straits of Singapore/South China Sea – an area of great strategic importance to world shipping - clarified some issues but left others still to be decided. The ICJ ruled that Singapore had sovereignty over the islet of Pula Batu Puteh (known in Singapore as Pedra Branca), while on the other hand recognising Malaysia’s sovereignty over the smaller Middle Rocks.

Singapore operates a lighthouse on Pula Batu Puteh that provides a key navigations aid to ships approaching the island-state’s main port, the world’s busiest container facility. But the ICJ left ownership of a third rocky outcrop, known as South Ledge, open for negotiation, depending on ownership of territorial waters around it. Malaysia has since claimed sovereignty over this group of rocks, which is only visible at low tide. It is calculated that around 40% of world trade passes through the Straits. The islets are separated by only 600 metres of water. Abdul Ghafur Hamid at Malaysia’s International Islamic University told Reuters that ‘the crucial thing is the two countries should delimit their territorial waters. there will be so many problems and confusion’. BMI’s newly released Malaysia Freight Transport Report predicts that in terms of freight carried, shipping traffic will grow by an average 7.6% per year in 2008-2012. The total number of containers handled at Malaysia’s ports will grow more strongly by 10.9% per year. The continuing export drive and the dynamism of China and other regional trading partners will underpin strong demand. We now expect total freight carried, measured in million tonnes-km (mntkm), to grow by an annual average of 7.2% over the 2008-2012 period. Total road freight turnover is expected to grow at an average annual rate of 6.6% in 2008-2012. The cross-Malaysia railway link project is being revived, but will not become operational until after 2011.

We expect rail freight traffic to perform reasonably well, with annual growth averaging 6.6%. Air freight will grow by a strong 7.8% per annum, with pipeline throughput not far behind at 6.9%. Malaysia scores moderately on our overall freight rating at 48.3 out of a theoretical maximum of 100, having slipped since our last report because of a fall in its country risk rating. It is nevertheless at the top end of the spectrum in terms of expected freight transport growth and scores well as far as long-term economic risk, transport infrastructure growth and the regulatory and competitive environments are concerned. For the 2008-2012 forecast period, we expect the transport and communications sector to continue outpacing the economy as a whole by a small margin. It will achieve average annual growth of 5.6%, versus 5.5% for overall GDP. The total value of the transport and communications sector will rise to US$20.7bn in nominal terms by 2012, representing 7.4% of Malaysia’s GDP.

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