27 April 2017

Mr Gary Goh, Deputy Chief Executive, Employment and Employability Institute

Capt Salleh, Director, Singapore Maritime Academy 

Mr Alex Yit, Vice-President, STET Division, ST Electronics (Training & Simulation Systems) Pte Ltd 

Distinguished Guests and Graduating Cadets

If you had read the headline today, Singapore made it to the top against some 30 maritime capitals. Not only as a port, not only as a place for shipping, but as the International Maritime Centre.

2     We are not just talking about containers at our port anymore. We are also talking about the banks, insurance, P&I Clubs, Classification Societies, legal, arbitration, the whole ecosystem that has developed through years of conscientious and constant effort, invested in the rest of the maritime cluster in last few decades.

3     Why is that important? It is important because once you establish a cluster, you have shipping groups here and mind you we now more than 140 shipping groups in Singapore. Besides major shipping lines Maersk, CMA CGM, APL, COSCO, there are many other lines that have operations in Singapore. If they are like Maersk, they call Singapore their second home because their corporate functions are also here.

4     We are hoping that when the Japanese lines merge, they will also choose to locate their global operations in Singapore itself. Once you have these players here, the rest of the ecosystem also builds around this players. Which is why the P&I clubs, banks, insurers, the Classification Societies have established their presence in Singapore. Lloyd’s Asia is an example. They have more than a dozen syndicates in Singapore. Classification society like DNV GL they have a research centre in Singapore. Same for Lloyd’s Register and other Classification Societies.

5    Varying in sizes, they see Singapore as having the world top 5 registries, that is 4,000 over shops that is flagged under Singapore flag. Some people ask me why we don’t want to be number one. Well, we want to be a quality flag. We don’t want to be a flag of convenience. It is easy to register a ship under the national flag but can you provide the quality service. The ship flagged under SRS have one of the lowest detention rates anywhere else in the world because it is a quality flag and we intend to keep it that way. I can assure you that the registry continues to grow year on year.

6     Tonnage is also growing even though the number of vessels that call in our port may not seem to be growing but the ships are getting bigger. So, tonnage has increased. Containerships are getting bigger, mega vessels call at our port, part of mega alliances, which is why our port also has to be a mega port and that’s one project that’s going to take us from where we are here all the way over the next 40 years and beyond.

7     The Tuas next generation port will support us into 2040 and beyond. Don’t you agree that is long career pathway? Yes. Which is why we are using this opportunity not only to build a larger port to cater to the growing industry but a port that is world class. A smarter port, more intelligent port, high productivity and also environmentally sustainable.  Why? Because when you are thinking of that timeframe of 30 to 50 years, you can’t say that no part of Singapore will be sterilized from a port. One day people may be living side by side with a port. So it is better you build a port right now that takes care of pollution, noise, air quality, and yet be a world class port.

8     This week, we also tackled another topic that is confronting the industry. Some say the shipping industries is very old fashioned, but technology is changing some sectors of our industry. Some you may know. You have friends in Uber. The taxi industry was disrupted because of introduction of Uber. These are players that come in, they don’t have to own a taxi but I can provide a platform to better utilize taxi. New business models are developing. These developments can affect our position if we do not keep updated on these developments.

9     One topic that is much discussed this week is does the maritime sector have a digital future? Answer is yes. Like many sectors in economy, it has to embrace digitalisation. This is where the investment we are putting in, in terms of nudging the industries towards embracing more technology. I have been in discussion with all the top brass of the Classification Societies, these are entities that certify the ships when they are designed, make sure they are built with certain specifications. All of them are very excited with the fact that ships of the future will no longer be like ships currently.

10     Right now ships are not very intelligent but future ships will. Already some of the makers are building in sensors on-board the shipboard systems so that remote monitoring of ships can be done. Today one of the classification societies, DNV GL, was saying currently we are managing ships on its own but one day I can manage a network of ships because all the ships are digitally connected and have remote monitoring of engine performance, voyage, weather conditions. Maybe I don’t need to send so many people out to sea or reduce the number of people on the ships and when you start reducing people on ships, we are just one step away from autonomous ships. I think that is possible. Maybe not so soon. We have to deal with the regulations but we can’t ignore the fact that already on the road there are driverless cars. So one day, there will be driverless ships.

11      What does this mean for you? It means that as you enter this industry it is at a time of rapid transformation. Skills that you have learnt will be relevant but you have to keep upgrading yourself and make sure you stay relevant.

12    As the lead agency for the Sectoral Tripartite Committee for Sea Transport, the Maritime and Port Authority of Singapore (MPA) is working closely with our partners to introduce the industry transformation map. You may have heard about it as part of the Committee for Future Economy but basically what it does is transform the industry to make it more future ready, embrace technology, enhance productivity and to upskill the workers.

13     Just this week, we have launched the Skill Framework for Sea Transport. I hope some of you have seen that. If not, I would suggest you download or get a hardcopy. There are some 40 over jobs that have been identified including the progression pathways. We feel that there has been a lack of awareness of the job opportunities in the maritime sector. Coming out with this Skills Framework is one step towards publicising the job opportunities and providing clarity as to how if you join seafaring side or shore-based side, what is your career progression like.

14     Every year of sea time you clock up makes you more valuable because when you move on to the shore, you can be in ship or talent management, skills that require you to have some experience out at sea.

15     Another thing that we will roll out is the MPA Living Lab. We want to capitalise the industry in its transformation effort. The MPA living lab will involve MPA opening up its anchorages and sea spaces for industry solution providers for institutions of higher learning, research institutions, to come together and work with industries players to test-bed new solutions, test-bed innovative ideas. Things like greater automation, robotics, autonomous systems, data analytics, the sort of things that every sector of the economy is now having to leverage on.

16    The third area we will do is we will boost manpower and skills in the maritime sector by identifying new skills that are relevant and work with our partners like PSA and Jurong Port to upskill the port sector, as well as companies in our international maritime cluster to upskill the services cluster. Because the work going ahead will be more knowledge-intensive. I don’t think it will be difficult for us to make the transition. Our schools prepare you for this and we are a tech savvy society.

Good Seafarers Need Passion and Commitment

17     Graduating cadets, you are seated here today because of your passion and commitment towards seafaring. Without passion, it will not be easy to stay the long haul and become a skilled professional in this field. Let me now take a moment to mention two individuals who have demonstrated these qualities.

18     First, Mr Jefrizal bin Juari. He used to work in courier services. He has a deep admiration for the sea and was persuaded by his brother to join seafaring. There was a period of two years where he could not complete his exams as he had to care for several family members who were ill. Not giving up, he worked hard, persevered and managed to overcome adversities. I am pleased to share that Mr Jefrizal has passed his exams recently in December 2016 and is now a full-fledged officer on board a bunker tanker.

Upgrading Opportunities for Graduates

19     While passion and commitment are essential, you will also need to learn new skills and knowledge to keep up with the evolving demands of the job. Last year we announced a new CoC Class 4 Master and Chief Engineer (Special Limit) programme to provide opportunity for the existing Special Limit officers to acquire vocational and leadership skills, and progress in their careers. I am happy to announce the first batch of nine (9) officers have already completed the programme and will be graduating today.

20     Among them is Mr Aaron Ong. Before joining the programme, Aaron had several part-time and ad-hoc jobs. Having a long term career was not on his mind. Lucky for him, a friend introduced him to the Special Limit programme in 2011. Today, Aaron is a qualified Master and a firm believer in lifelong learning. For his interest to deepen his skills, Aaron was awarded the SkillsFuture Study Awards.

21   Besides the CoC programmes, we have also introduced the Port Limit Tug Master Programme in 2015 to attract Singaporeans into the harbour craft sector. Today, we witness 17 graduates from the first cohort who have successfully completed their 15-month training.

22     One of them is Zul Khairi bin Khalil whose hobby is in pleasure boating. Intrigued with how tug masters tow large vessels on our waters, Zul enrolled in the Tug Master programme. While undergoing his training, I was told that Zul also became a father. Congratulations.

Maritime Apprenticeship Scheme

23    To encourage more to take up career in seafaring, I am pleased to announce that the Tripartite Maritime Manpower Taskforce for Seafaring (TF-Sea) has developed the Maritime Apprenticeship Scheme to support multiple career entry points into seafaring careers and better match our Singaporean jobseekers with potential employers.

24     The Maritime Apprenticeship Scheme aims to strengthen the employability of Singaporeans by providing an avenue to pick up vocational skills, and allow companies and Singaporean jobseekers to better assess job fit before employment.

25     Under this scheme, jobseekers will be placed on a month-long shipboard work trial with local harbour craft employers, as well as a three-day foundational maritime training course to assimilate themselves with basic shipboard safety and seamanship. Jobseekers can then be formally employed to undergo further training and certification to become steersmen, engine drivers, tug masters, and even the CoC Special Limit Officers.


26     While we celebrate your achievements today, I would like to take the opportunity thank SMA, the unions and sponsoring companies for their continued commitment in the success of the CoC (Special Limits) and Tug Master programmes. I would also like to acknowledge the assistance rendered by Mendaki SENSE to help cadets prepare for their oral examinations.


27     I congratulate all cadets on your graduation today. You have bright prospects ahead, and I wish you every success in your career.

[1] “Special Limit” denotes sailing/operating within a radius of 30 nautical miles of Singapore.

[2]The CoC (Special Limit) Deck Officer and Marine Engineer Officer programmes were started in 2011 and 2012 respectively, by the Maritime and Port Authority of Singapore (MPA), the Employment and Employability Institute (e2i), and the Singapore Workforce Development Agency (WDA) to train officers to operate ships that ply in and around Singapore.