The Southeast Asian maritime and aviation sectors have started to recover from the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic. The technological landscape in the region is also evolving fast. Further, continuous efforts are being made to reduce the vulnerability of the sectors to the effects of climate change. In the near future, sustainable infrastructure will be required not only for ports and airports but for the overall transport sector. Southeast Asia Infrastructure takes a look at some of the key trends and developments across the port and aviation sectors…

Ports and shipping

Container trade at ports

Southeast Asian countries are considered an important gateway for maritime containerised trade because of their advantageous geographical location. Consequently, the construction and modernisation of ports have always been a priority. In Cambodia, construction has commenced on a $1.5 billion logistics and multipurpose seaport in Kampot province. The project will include the construction of a container terminal, a special economic zone, a free trade area, a logistics hub and an oil refinery. The port’s handling capacity at the end of the first phase will be 300,000 twenty-foot equivalent units (TEUs); the capacity will be expanded to 600,000 TEUs by 2030.

Similarly, a declaration has been made by Palm Oil Industrial Cluster (POIC) Sabah Sdn Bhd to make the Lahad Datu POIC port in Malaysia open for public use. POIC Sabah Sdn Bhd has also signed a concession agreement with the Sabah Ports Authority and POIC Logistics Sdn Bhd to facilitate this move. This transition is expected to make the port a logistics hub for Brunei, Indonesia, Malaysia, and the Philippines’ East Asean Growth Area. In another development, the Singapore and Indonesia governments have announced plans to build an international container port at the Kendal industrial park in central Java. Feasibility studies for potential sites have already been completed and a proposal has been submitted to the Government of Indonesia.

Green ports

Worldwide, the shipping sector is currently responsible for about 3 per cent of greenhouse gas emissions. Green port development has become a key strategic pathway for domestic port systems to integrate with international marine systems. Among these is the development of Singapore’s Tuas port by PSA Corporation Limited. It has already commenced service with the first three berths operational under Phase I. The autonomous and green port project is scheduled to be completed by 2040. In another development, the Maritime and Port Authority of Singapore has signed a memorandum of understanding with the Port of Rotterdam Authority to establish a green maritime corridor to enable low- and zero-carbon shipping on Asian-European shipping lanes.

Additionally, other alternatives such as synthetic methane, hydrogen, and hydrogen-based fuels including ammonia and methanol are at various stages of research and development for deployment in the near future. In another development, Yinson GreenTech has announced plans to deploy the first fully electric cargo vessel in the Port of Singapore. The green vessel, known as Hydramover, will be designed by SeaTech Solutions International and will use Shift Clean Energy’s PwrSwäp battery swapping technology. The zero-emission ship is expected to reduce operational costs by up to 50 per cent due to improved energy efficiency.


Sector growth

With Southeast Asian countries opening their borders to quarantine-free leisure visits, there has been a significant increase in air passenger traffic. For instance, Singapore’s Changi Airport handled 32.2 million passengers in 2022, reaching almost half the number of passengers handled in 2019. Throughout 2022, Lombok Airport, Indonesia, served 1.98 million passengers, an increase of 85 per cent compared to 2021. According to the Civil Aviation Administration of Vietnam, air passengers numbered 23.3 million in the first half of 2022, recording an increase of around 74.2 per cent year on year. Concerted efforts have been made to revitalise the aviation sector following the pandemic.

ExecuJet MRO Services Malaysia Sdn Bhd has commenced construction on a new maintenance, repair and overhaul (MRO) centre at Subang Airport in Malaysia. The aim of this project is to maximise the airport’s hangar space. The new facility will feature an ultra-large aircraft hangar, with capacity to accommodate 10 to 15 business jets of different sizes, as well as a dedicated apron area. Energy efficient lighting will be used to reduce the MRO facility’s energy usage.An 85 kW rooftop solar system will also be installed. PT International Airport Batam, a consortium comprising PT Wijaya Karya, Angkasa Pura 1, and South Korea-based Incheon International Airport Corporation, has commenced the operation of the Hang Nadim International Airport in Batam, Indonesia. Under the terms of the contract, the consortium will develop and manage the airport for a period of 25 years.

Sustainability in aviation

The civil aviation sector is also focusing on sustainability and net zero carbon emission. Vietnam-based Pacific Group has ordered 10 units of SkyDrive’s SD-05 eVTOL aircraft, with an option for 90 more units, in an effort to increase urban air mobility options in the country. The SD-05 is a fully electric, two-seat eVTOL aircraft, capable of making 10 km long flights at speeds of up to 100 km per hour. Additionally, the Pacific Group will partner with SkyDrive to explore feasible and environmentally friendly mobility options for Vietnam. PT Pertamina, Indonesia’s state-owned oil and gas company, is developing a palm oilbased aircraft fuel to reduce carbon emissions in the country’s aviation sector. Besides, an International Advisory Panel has been set up by the Civil Aviation Authority of Singapore to help support the development of the country’s sustainable air hub blueprint. The panel has submitted its report.

Increased funding

Funding through government budgets has been the mainstay for infrastructure financing. The high financial risks, long gestation periods, huge capital requirements and low returns deter private investors from participating in big-ticket infrastructure projects. The Government of Thailand has approved a THB 36 billion budget for works on the third phase of the Don Mueang Airport project. Most of this will be financed by internal revenues of the Airports of Thailand, with the remaining funds being obtained from external sources. Once the expansion project is completed, the airport will be able to handle 40 million passengers annually. In the Philippines, the Department of Transportation has allocated nearly PhP 600 million to finance the expansion and upgradation of seven airports across the country and has invited bidders for the project.

The way ahead

Ports and airports need to plan and implement more adaptation measures to increase their resilience and reduce their vulnerability to the effects of climate change and greenhouse gas emissions. Apart from the government, increasing private participation will be significant for the development of these sectors across the region. „