28 April 2012

Distinguished Guests,

Ladies and Gentlemen,


It gives me great pleasure to join you here today at the closing of the International Sportsweek for Seafarers. This is the 17th year that the Maritime and Port Authority of Singapore, or MPA, is organising the event. I understand that the response once again has been good, with about 1400 participants in the various sporting events over the past few days.

Shipping is an important business. More than 90% of world trade is carried by sea and seafarers play a critical role in this. At the same time, the life of a seafarer can be tough and demanding. Seafarers spend long periods at sea, away from family and friends while braving the dangers of the sea, both natural and man-made. I am glad that the annual Sportsweek organised by MPA, provides a good opportunity for seafarers to take a short break from their routine at sea. More importantly, it promotes goodwill and sportsmanship among seafarers of different nationalities, cultures and backgrounds. I hope that many of you have enjoyed the activities over the past few days and made new friends in the process.

Singapore's commitment to seafarers' welfare

I would like to emphasize that seafarers' welfare has not been forgotten in Singapore. We recognise the challenges that seafarers face, and the sacrifices they make. To this end, MPA is constantly working in partnership with the unions, seafarers' missions and the industry, to look into ways to enhance and promote seafarers' interests and well-being.

We know that seafarers wish to have access to good communication facilities so as to enable them to keep in touch with their loved ones. MPA worked with the unions and the seafarers' missions to establish International Drop-In Centres for seafarers at our cargo terminals . This allows seafarers to use internet and phone facilities even though the turnaround time in port is short. For seafarers calling at our port, the Singapore Mariners' Club or SMC provides seafarers with competitively-priced apartments, well-furnished and equipped with amenities. SMC is owned by MPA and the club is located near the port precinct.

Separation from their loved ones, fatigue, stress, and the risk of piracy and armed robbery, are just few of the problems that seafarers face. I am pleased that MPA provides an annual grant of S$100,000 to support the important work of the seafarer missions in Singapore. The missions offer practical, emotional and spiritual support to seafarers through ship visitations, counselling services and pastoral care.

For our local seafarers, MPA also administers a number of financial assistance schemes. For example, MPA provides educational grants for our local seamen who wish to upgrade their skills and improve their qualifications and gives out the Long Service Retirement Award to local seamen who have sailed for at least 15 years. MPA also contributes to the Singapore Stranded Seafarers Fund, administering this in partnership with the unions. MPA also provides conciliation services to help resolve disputes between employers and seafarers onboard Singapore-flagged ships.

Last but not least, I am happy to mention that Singapore's commitment to improve seafarers' welfare has achieved a milestone last year, when Singapore became the first Asian country to ratify the Maritime Labour Convention (or MLC) 2006, with the full support of our tripartite partners - the seafarer unions and the National Trade Union Congress, as well as the maritime industry and the Singapore National Employers' Federation. The MLC 2006 is expected to benefit and improve seafarers' conditions with decent work and labour standards, such as conditions of employment, accommodation, health protection and medical care, recreational facilities etc. In Singapore, the tripartite partners will continue with our preparations to apply the MLC provisions when the Convention comes into force.


In closing, let me thank the shipping community, the unions, and the seafarers' missions for their support for Sportsweek. I would also like to thank each of you for your participation in making this event a success. Moving forward, we will continue to work in close partnership with the seafarer unions, missions and the industry to safeguard and promote the interests and well-being of all seafarers.

We hope to see you again next year. Have a good evening.

Thank you.