SPEECH BY MR CHOI SHING KWOK, PERMANENT SECRETARY FOR THE MINISTRY OF TRANSPORT, AT OPENING OF THE INTERTANKO ANNUAL TANKER SEMINAR, 11 MAY 2012, 9:15 AM AT CONRAD HOTEL

11 May 2012

Captain Graham Westgarth
Chairman of INTERTANKO

Ladies and Gentlemen,

A very good morning to all of you; and a warm welcome to Singapore for all our guests who have come from near and far.

I am delighted to join you for the opening of this year's INTERTANKO Tanker Seminar, which Singapore has the pleasure of hosting for the third time. I understand that this Seminar is the largest gathering for the tanker industry this year and it is a timely event as you discuss key challenges and chart future directions in line with your vision to promote a responsible, sustainable and respected tanker industry.

Importance of Tanker Shipping

Even as we spare no effort to find new sources of renewable energy, oil remains one of the most important commodities in the world and the lifeblood of many economies. Despite rising oil prices, the global demand for oil has not slowed. According to OPEC, oil demand last year hit an all-time high of 88 million barrels per day and we are looking at a further increase in 2012. Oil deposits are however not evenly distributed. Many countries, including Singapore, do not have natural access to oil.

The tanker industry therefore plays an important role in the international distribution of oil. In 2011, over half of the 88 million barrels per day was moved by tankers on fixed maritime routes. Between one-third to half of this is transported through the Straits of Malacca and Singapore. Sitting astride this key waterway, Singapore is well positioned to continue being a premier hub port and petrochemical centre for the tanker industry. As a port, Singapore saw tanker arrivals almost doubling from 300 million gross tons in 2004 to over 600 million gross tons last year. As an international maritime centre, Singapore has also benefitted from the tanker community's contributions to the diversity and vibrancy of our maritime ecosystem.

Today, many of the top tanker players like Teekay and the oil majors have significant shipping operations in Singapore. Of INTERTANKO's 240 companies worldwide, over 70 have representation here. This forms a natural nucleus for other tanker players who wish to seize the growth opportunities in Asia. In addition, the tanker community is also a major contributor to Singapore's sizeable oil and gas industry.

Given the importance of the oil and maritime trade to Singapore, it is natural for us to pay close attention to navigational safety, maritime security and the protection of the marine environment. These are issues that I know are also near and dear to INTERTANKO. The Singapore Government is therefore committed to partnering the maritime industry, including the tanker community, to promote the 3 "S"s of international shipping: safety, security and sustainability.

Singapore's Partnership with the Tanker Industry

Safe Shipping

Let me first touch on safe shipping. The 100th anniversary of the sinking of the Titanic and the more recent Costa Concordia tragedy are reminders that we cannot take navigational safety for granted. I believe this renewed emphasis on safety resonates across the tanker industry as unsafe shipping practices could lead to disastrous environmental and financial consequences. Although there was some earlier speculation that safety could be compromised as a result of the low freight rates in the last couple of years, I am pleased to note that the number of tanker incidents has actually fallen in 2011 compared to 2010. Despite the growing cost pressures, tanker owners and industry associations like INTERTANKO continue to recognise the importance of safety and uphold it to high standards.

On our part, the Singapore Government has worked with the tanker industry and other maritime players to enhance navigational safety in our region. Last July, the Maritime and Port Authority of Singapore (MPA) launched a new Port Operations Control Centre (POCC) at Changi that is equipped with a new Vessel Traffic Information System (VTIS) that doubles our surveillance capabilities.

I mentioned earlier also the importance of the Straits of Malacca and Singapore to the oil trade. Singapore works closely with our neighbours, Indonesia and Malaysia, through the Cooperative Mechanism to engage user States and industry players like INTERTANKO to enhance navigational freedom and safety along this important waterway.

Secure Shipping

The second area that I would like to touch on is secure shipping. Piracy has resurfaced as a major threat to international shipping. While Singapore supports international efforts to address piracy off the coast of Somalia, we also remain committed to keeping piracy in Asia in check. To this end, Singapore and our neighbours continue to undertake security patrols along the Straits of Malacca and Singapore. Singapore also works through the Regional Cooperation Agreement on Combating Piracy and Armed Robbery Against Ships in Asia (or ReCAAP) to strengthen cooperation among governments and industry to tackle piracy in the region. In March this year, Singapore renewed our agreement with ReCAAP to host the Information Sharing Centre here for another 5 years.

I am pleased to note that INTERTANKO will be signing a Memorandum of Understanding with the ReCAAP Information Sharing Centre this afternoon to enhance information exchange and explore new areas of cooperation. With this MOU, I look forward to closer collaboration between INTERTANKO and the ReCAAP Information Sharing Centre to address piracy in Asia.

Sustainable Shipping

The last area is sustainable shipping. This has become an integral part of the business as the maritime industry seeks to balance economic growth and protecting the environment. To encourage our maritime community to adopt green practices, the MPA launched the S$100 million Maritime Singapore Green Initiative last April with its three pronged Green Ship; Green Port; and Green Technology programmes.

I am encouraged by the tanker community's support for the Maritime Singapore Green Initiative. To date, 25 tankers have registered under the Green Port programme and 21 tanker calls have qualified for the port dues concessions. To further encourage our tanker community to adopt environmentally-friendly practices, the MPA also offers a 50% port dues rebate to IMO-compliant double-hulled bunker tankers that are less than 5 years old. I thank INTERTANKO for its support of these initiatives and I look forward to even more INTERTANKO members signing on in the months ahead.

At the same time, I also encourage INTERTANKO and its members to lend your support to the International Maritime Organisation (IMO)'s efforts to address shipping emissions. Given the growing attention on this issue, it is crucial that shipping associations like INTERTANKO work closely with the IMO on an emission reduction framework that is mutually agreed and universally applied.
Any regional or unilateral regulation of a trans-boundary and global sector like shipping will not only distort competition but also cap industry's growth to the detriment of all.

Conclusion

Ladies and gentlemen, we recognise that safe, secure and sustainable shipping must be supported by a conducive business environment. This is all the more important under the current challenging market conditions.

On our part, the Singapore government will continue to support the industry through our pro-business policies. I am confident that with the strong partnership between the Singapore Government and key industry players like INTERTANKO, we can chart a clear path through the stormy seas and emerge in a stronger position to seize opportunities when the industry recovers.

On this note, let me wish everyone a fruitful seminar. I am sure that the results of your deliberations will live up to INTERTANKO's ambition of "Leading the Way; Making a Difference".

Thank you.