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Upgrade of Asian ports needed

A United Nations economist said southeast Asian ports must improve productivity and technology if they expect to keep pace with logistics growth in the region, the Journal of Commerce online reported late last year.

"With increasing integration of economies brought about by globalization, the trade of Asian economies has expanded rapidly over the last decade and is showing increasing reliance on inter-Asia trade," said Dong-woo Ha, an economic affairs officer with the United Nations' Economic and Social Commission for Asia-Pacific. "This places heavy demands on infrastructure development and pressure on increasing the efficiency of transport logistics services."

According to JoC, Dong told the Asean Ports Association conference in Vietnam that increased volumes of containers moving around the region will put pressure on ports and land transport interchanges, bringing a need for more efficient intermodal connections.

The UN agency known as ESCAP forecasts Asian full-container trade will rise at an annual rate of 7% through 2011, with the volume of international containers handled by ports in the region increasing from 95mn TEUs to 216mn TEUs in that time.

"With increased demands for capital investment in ports, prioritization of port development projects and promotion of private sector participation will become increasingly necessary to avoid wasteful investment and ensure that funds are available for port development projects," said Dong.

A study will be commissioned to formulate a five-year plan for transport and logistics within ASEAN (Association of Southeast Asian Nations) countries, which include Singapore, Malaysia, Indonesia, Thailand, the Philippines, Vietnam, Myanmar (Burma), Laos, Brunei and Cambodia. Between now and 2007, nearly all trade and other restrictions will be swept away under the ASEAN free-trade zone arrangement.

Within the Asia-Pacific, ASEAN countries account for more than 30% of port container traffic and a third of the region's merchant fleet. ASEAN countries have more than 200 international ports and 3,700 domestic terminals.