22 May 2018

Distinguished guests,
Ladies and gentlemen,
Good afternoon.

      It is my pleasure to be back at this year’s forum. I would like to thank Pranjal and Julian for having me here today.


2     I would like to start by sharing briefly about the maritime industry in Singapore. Maritime Singapore is powered by its twin pillars – our global hub port and international maritime centre, or IMC. These twin pillars allowed us to cross leverage and create greater synergies with other sectors.  Today, we are the world’s second largest container port, connected to over 600 ports in over 120 countries and handling more than 30 million TEUs of goods annually. More than 130,000 vessels call at our port every year for the one-stop suite of services offered by our port, such as cargo-handling, repairs, supplies, crew change and bunkering.  We are the largest bunkering hub in the world, and in 2017 we crossed the 50 million tonne mark in bunker sales. We are glad that our port is able to serve the needs of the shipping community well.

3     Beyond the physical port, we have established a vibrant IMC.  It is an effort that we have embarked on for the last two decades. We saw the need to build other business adjacencies around the port and decided that growing Singapore as an IMC would fill that ambition.  With the support of the maritime community, we were able to grow the range and scale of services and activities. There are now more than 140 international shipping groups based in Singapore, supported by a network of maritime services. We have more than 20 banks offering ship financing activities, over 20 major ship broking firms, and more than 30 local and international law firms with maritime practice. Our IMC is served by nine IG P&I Clubs out of 13 Clubs globally, with 20 Lloyd’s Asia service companies writing marine and/or offshore business. We are also the fifth largest ship registry in the world, with over 88 million GT registered and our aim is to continue being recognised as a quality flag.

4     Maritime Singapore is a key pillar of the Singapore economy, contributing 7% to GDP and employing more than 170,000 people in over 5,000 establishments.

5     The growth of Maritime Singapore would not have been possible without the strong partnerships we have with the industry including many of you in the room today. Thank you for your support.


6     While we have made progress, the pace and extent of change today means that we cannot afford to be complacent. Last year at this same forum, we talked about a weak, uncertain and complex market. Since then, what has changed?

7     For one, the global economy is expected to improve. In its latest World Economic Outlook, the IMF expects to see an improvement in global growth at 3.9%. Advanced economies are expected to grow faster, which is a welcome change from the years of sluggish or even negative growth we’ve seen. Emerging economies are projected to continue seeing strong growth, and for the dry bulk markets – we can take heart that commodity exporters are expected to do better this year.

8     This sets a good foundation for global seaborne trade to expand. However the overcapacity in the various sectors continues to be the Achilles’ heel, especially for the container and tanker sectors. Even as the sectors confront day-to-day business realities, unprecedented change is coming to the maritime industry. For instance, the pace and accessibility of technologies are driving the emergence of new business models, such as e-freight platforms, or new approaches to the way we have been working.

9     Last year, we spoke about the geopolitical tensions amongst the global powers. Unfortunately some of these remained.  We saw the imposition of US sanctions on Iran and Russia, and there was also talk of a trade war between the US and China. Over the weekend however, US and China agreed to suspend tariffs and resume trade talks. Let us hope that a favourable outcome for global trade can be achieved.

10     While we cannot disregard the threat of protectionism, progress continues to be made for free trade. In March, the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) trade deal was revived in the form of the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for TPP (CPTPP), which was signed by 11 countries , including Singapore. Singapore also endeavours to continue promoting regional integration as the current ASEAN chair. ASEAN is a region with strong economic potential; we are set to become the fourth largest single market in the world by 2030. The economic potential of ASEAN is best harnessed through opening up and establishing strong partnerships both regionally and with global partners. 

11     Given the pace of developments that I’ve just outlined, one could say nothing has fundamentally changed. The uncertainty remains.  The challenge is how can we cope with the uncertainty – the uncertainty of industry consolidation, new players entering the market, new skills sets required  going forward to remain adaptable and competitive?  It means that the industry must gradually transform to take into consideration these new demands.

12     Maritime Singapore faces similar challenges.  Hence we have started looking at the various building blocks and what needs to be done.  We will work with the industry to adapt to the challenges ahead.  Our building blocks include our Next Generation Port or NGP 2030 and the strategic review we undertook to set our IMC 2030 vision. Both these plans are coming together into the Sea Transport Industry Transformation Map, or ITM, which will form the blueprint for us to drive our development as the Global Maritime Hub for Connectivity, Innovation and Talent. Through the ITM, we are looking at Maritime Singapore achieve value-added of S$4.5 billion and create more than 5,000 good jobs by 2025 .


13     As part of the ITM, we will be implementing initiatives under the key ITM pillars – innovation, productivity, jobs & skills and internationalisation – that would transform the industry to embrace technology, enhance productivity and equip our workforce with the necessary skills to support the growth of a more connected and innovative maritime ecosystem. I would like to share with you some of these initiatives we have embarked on.


14     Innovation will remain key as Singapore develops future capabilities and solutions built on emerging technologies such as autonomous systems, robotics, data analytics and artificial intelligence. To drive this next phase of growth, MPA will support companies to embark on innovation and productivity-driven growth by fostering an enabling environment and infrastructure.
15     One of our efforts on this front is the MPA Living Lab.  The MPA Living Lab will offer technology developers and industry partners a real operating environment at the port to co-develop and pilot innovative solutions. Several projects have been initiated, including the development of a remote assisted pilotage system for harbour pilots to steer vessels from shore, and the testing of vessel traffic management solutions.

16     To spur the development of more of such solutions, MPA will set up the Singapore Maritime Data Hub (SG-MDH). For a start, the SG-MDH will make available to the industry and the public real-time access to MPA’s port and ship-related data by third quarter of this year, with the possibility for other types of industry data to be added over time. This will pave the way for new applications, services and products to be developed.

17     MPA together with NUS Enterprise will jointly execute the Maritime Technology Acceleration Programme (MTAP). The MTAP will help start-ups translate their ideas into marketable solutions for the industry, and promising start-ups and entrepreneurs will receive tailored mentorship from industry partners, as well as networking opportunities with potential investors.


18     Productivity is another area we are paying close attention to as a means to enhance operational efficiencies and provide greater value to our customers. Beyond port productivity measures, MPA is looking at how processes can be streamlined through digitalisation and automation technologies.

19     Efforts on this front include the Maritime Single Window, which will be integrated with the National Trade Platform to facilitate the sharing of vessel and cargo-related information with the wider trading community.

20     We are also looking at how we can improve productivity in the ship agency sector and transform the roles of ship agents to take on higher-value jobs in future. MPA recently signed a MoU with the Singapore Shipping Association and a start-up, Glee Trees Pte Ltd, on a proof-of-concept for the development of a shipping agency tool. This tool will use Robotic Process Automation technology to allow ship agencies to automate manual processes such as data entry and validation. The proof-of-concept will be initiated jointly with “designated” ship agencies and could subsequently be rolled out to other ship agencies in need of such a solution.

21     Another initiative is the use of Electronic Certificates (E-Certs) onboard Singapore-flagged vessels since 2016, which has helped reduce the administrative burden and costs associated with traditional paper certificates. MPA has recently moved towards issuing E-Certs directly to Singapore-flagged vessels, in addition to those already being issued by our Recognised Organisations.

Jobs & Skills
22     A skilled maritime workforce is critical to meet the needs of the industry and set us apart from our competitors. Based on a maritime manpower supply and demand study MPA commissioned in 2016, some of the necessary skillsets for the future will be in the realm of IT, data analytics and of course, soft skills. We need to ensure our workforce is well-equipped with these skills.

23     One of our key enabling tools to support continued maritime talent development is the Maritime Cluster Fund (MCF).  Part of the MCF will go towards manpower development, supporting the maritime workforce in acquiring skills beyond the maritime domain such as data analytics, digital literacy and resource management. This will better position our workforce for future competencies and multi-disciplinary skill sets that will be increasingly in demand.

24     In addition, it is important that we continue to attract young talent into the industry. One of the ways we are doing this is through the MPA Global Internship Award (GIA), which offers students internship opportunities with international maritime companies in Singapore and overseas. We have seen growing interest in the MPA GIA and interns deciding to join the companies full-time upon graduation. This is testament to the interesting and worthy job opportunities that the maritime industry offers. MPA will be enhancing the MPA GIA to strengthen the relevance of the internship experience.

25     Over the past two years, MPA has worked together with the associations and Labour Movement through the Tripartite Maritime Taskforces for Seafaring and Shore-based sectors to spearhead development efforts. Together with our partners, we have rolled out initiatives such as the Skills Future Earn-and-Learn Programmes as well as the Sea Transport Skills Framework.

Partnering Key Companies

26     We will continue to work with companies to grow their operations in Singapore. As new solutions such as digitalisation and automation become possible, we have worked with companies such as Thome Group and CMA CGM to expand their functions in Singapore. For instance, Thome Group has opened a 24/7 operations hub in Singapore, the first of its kind for the Group. The hub will allow staff to remotely track all of its vessels under their management globally, and carry out functions such as passage planning, and integrated vessel management system implementation.

27     Besides encouraging established companies to venture into new business activities, we will catalyse the growth of non-traditional players. These include maritime technology enterprises such as Alpha Ori and Metcore, and digital platforms like VesselsValue. Last November, Alpha Ori established a SMARTSHIP Centre of Innovation, a result of a MOU signed with MPA, Lloyd’s Register, and NUS’ Technology Centre for Offshore and Marine (TCOMS). The Centre of Innovation will pursue R&D into innovative products that could transform ship management operations.


28     Maritime Singapore’s progress to date has been made possible only because of the close partnerships and strong support from the maritime industry here. As we work towards our vision of being a Global Maritime Hub for Connectivity, Innovation and Talent, we seek your continued support and feedback.

29     The maritime sector is an interesting and exciting industry.  There are many different types of ships.  These ships represent engineering feats and emotional links that make shipping so different from other industries.

30    During the cyclical downturn, all of us suffered hardships.  However people in shipping are a resilient lot, so we came together to keep ship-shape.  At the end of it, many partnerships and enduring friendships are created.  MPA will work with the industry as we undertake the industry transformation journey together.

31     On this note, I would like to wish you a fruitful discussion. To our overseas guests, do have a pleasant stay in Singapore and safe travels home.

32     Thank you.