OPENING ADDRESS BY MR NIAM CHIANG MENG, CHAIRMAN OF MPA, AT THE OPENING OF THE INTERNATIONAL SAFETY AT SEA CONFERENCE
22 August 2017
Professor Richard Lim, Chairman, National Maritime Safety at Sea Council,
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Good morning and thank you for being here at the opening of the International Safety@Sea Conference, held in conjunction with Safety@Sea Week 2017 organised by the Maritime and Port Authority of Singapore or MPA.
2 Despite the many advances in technology, accidents continue to happen and it is a serious concern. The consequences are harsh, ranging from the loss of human lives and properties to lasting damage to the marine environment and eco-system. Thus, improving maritime safety must remain a key imperative of ours.
MPA’s Safety Efforts
3 Singapore, is located at one of the busiest sea lanes in the world. It therefore has a key role to play in helping reduce and prevent maritime accidents along the Sea Lines of Communication (SLOCs) in the Straits of Malacca and Singapore (SOMS) as well as in the South China Sea. In 2014, following a series of collisions at sea, I think there were 3 if I’m not mistaken, MPA launched the Safety@Sea campaign to raise awareness and inculcate a safety-first culture at sea.
4 Since then, MPA has taken steps to build a strong safety culture. For example, to enhance the safety of ferries, MPA has limited the lifespan of liferafts on regional ferries to 15 years and strengthened the inspection regime of life-raft servicing.
5 To enhance Singapore’s search and rescue capabilities, MPA invested in a new Medium-altitude Earth Orbit Search and Rescue (MEOSAR) ground system. The new MEOSAR system will allow us to detect and locate distressed vessels and personnel more accurately.
6 At the regional level, Singapore also works closely with our neighbours – Indonesia and Malaysia – through platforms such as the Tripartite Technical Experts Group and the Co-operative Mechanism on Safety of Navigation and Environmental Protection, to enhance the safety of navigation in the Straits.
7 Last year, MPA launched the “Safe Passage in the Singapore Strait” training package which was developed jointly with maritime authorities of Indonesia, Malaysia and Singapore, as well as BIMCO, International Chamber of Shipping and the National Maritime Safety at Sea Council of Singapore. The training package helps to equip mariners with valuable navigational information before transiting the Singapore Strait. Thus far, the feedback from maritime community on this initiative has been positive.
Stepping up Efforts to Enhance Safety at Sea
8 Ladies and gentlemen, over the years, we have seen good progress from all our collective efforts. The incident rate remains low with only one major incident in the last two years from 2015 to 2016, which represents a 75% drop in the major incident rate when compared to 2014. Of course the accident just yesterday morning, between a US warship and a merchant vessel off the east of Singapore’s waters which resulted in 10 missing sailors, showed that we still have quite a lot of things to do. Our hearts go out to the missing sailors and the injured and we hope that they will be found speedily and those injured will recover quickly. We need to continue our push to improve safety at sea.
9 At last year’s conference, the Coordinating Minister for Infrastructure and the Minister for Transport, Mr Khaw Boon Wan, announced that we will form a ‘Community of Practice’ (CoP) on maritime safety. This Community of Practice forum or CoP will complement existing forums such as the Co-operative Mechanism and Tripartite Technical Experts Group.
10 I am happy to announce that the first CoP forum will be held tomorrow. It will involve the participation of maritime administrations, Classification Societies and Non-Governmental Organisations who have volunteered to come together to share their knowledge, expertise and best practices on maritime safety, and for the inaugural forum, MPA has chosen the topic of ferry safety because ferries are a major means of transportation for many maritime nations including Singapore and ferry-related accidents can have catastrophic consequences.
11 Besides creating new avenues for knowledge sharing, we intent to significantly leverage on technology to enhance safety. In 2015, we signed an MOU with IBM to apply data analytics and sense-making capabilities to further enhance safety, security, and efficiency of the Port of Singapore. We have just successfully completed the MPA-IBM pilot trial under the Sense-making and Analytics for maritime Event Recognition (SAFER) project. We will start by rolling out three of seven modules progressively from September 2017.
12 Project SAFER will offer a host of new capabilities for automating and increasing the accuracy of critical tasks. I think in the past we have been using human observation, reporting, Very High Frequency (VHF) communication, and data entry. Under project SAFER, we will be employing analytics-based technologies. We will be able to predict potential congestion hotspots in the vessel traffic lanes, analyse near-misses and follow up on enhanced measures, and detect unusual vessel behaviour and apply the necessary interventions on the ground. Collectively, these features should translate into safer port operations.
13 In conclusion, let me say that safety is a shared responsibility. We all have a part to play to ensure safety in our waters. I am glad that we have a good mix of local and international delegates, including participants from MPA Academy’s Port Management Programme. I hope that you will be able to contribute and benefit from the range of activities planned throughout the Safety@Sea week, and I wish all of you a fruitful conference. Thank you.