23 September 2010

Capt Robin Foo, President, Singapore Maritime Officers' Union,
Mr Mohamed Idris, President, Singapore Organisation of Seamen, Ladies and gentlemen,

Let me wish you a good morning, and a very warm welcome to the World Maritime Day 2010, Hamper Presentation Ceremony. This is the eighth year the Maritime and Port Authority of Singapore (MPA), together with the Singapore Maritime Officers' Union (SMOU) and the Singapore Organisation of Seamen (SOS) has organised this event.

As we know, the life of a seafarer is by no means an easy one. In order to operate the ships on which global trade and economic progress depends, they need to be alert, highly trained, qualified and most importantly, motivated. Seafarers are often out of touch with their families, friends, love ones and the wider world when out in the open sea. We recognise their many sacrifices and to show our appreciation to seafarers for their dedication, MPA, together with the local seafarer unions, have been presenting gift hampers to ships that call at our port every World Maritime Day since 2003. This year, World Maritime Day celebrates the Year of Seafarer, to salute these seafarers for their unique and important contributions to the global shipping industry.

MPA works closely with the industry and unions to protect seafarers' interests and enhance their well-being. This tripartite partnership allows us to take a co-ordinated approach towards addressing the needs of local and foreign seafarers. MPA provides an annual grant of S$100,000 to support the work of the seafarer missions, which range from ship visitations to counselling services and pastoral care at the mission centres.

MPA administers a number of schemes that protect the interests of our local seafarers. The Special Relief Fund provides immediate financial assistance to the dependants of Singaporean seafarers who go missing at sea and the Long Service Retirement Award offers monetary benefits for retiring seamen who have sailed for at least 15 years. The Singapore Stranded Seafarers' Fund also helps repatriate local seamen stranded in foreign ports home.

For foreign seafarers calling at our port, the Singapore Mariners' Club or SMC serves as a 'home away from home'. Owned by MPA, the club is conveniently located near the port precinct, and provides seafarers with competitively-priced, value-for-money accommodation, as well as recreational and tele-communication facilities. The International Drop-In Centres for Seafarers located at the Keppel Terminal, Jurong Port, and Pasir Panjang Terminal also allow seafarers who find it difficult to leave the port area when they are off duty, to call home, surf the web and relax in the lounge area.

To promote a healthier lifestyle and greater interaction among seafarers, the SMC organises various activities for them. Each year, some 3,000 seafarers from ships that call at Singapore get together to compete in sports such as football, basketball and track & field events. They also get the opportunity to participate in social outings to the many places of interest and shopping districts in Singapore.

Going beyond cooperation on crew agreements and labour issues, MPA works closely with the industry and local seafarer unions to enhance the development of maritime manpower in Singapore.

In order to attract promising young talents to the maritime industry, MPA, SMOU, SOS, and individual shipping companies offer various scholarships and sponsorships such as the Seafaring Alternative...an Investment for Life (SAIL) Scholarship, and the Tripartite Maritime Scholarship Scheme (TMSS). Successful applicants pursue Diplomas in Nautical Studies or Marine Engineering at the Singapore Maritime Academy, after which they would embark on their maritime careers. Such initiatives help provide a steady stream of talent for both seafaring and shore based careers.

Our seafarers are offered opportunities for continued education and training with support from the MPA-administered Maritime Cluster Fund. MPA also operates the state-of-the-art Integrated Simulation Centre or ISC at the Singapore Polytechnic Dover Road campus. The ISC provides a full mission ship simulator capable of training Mercantile Naval Officers to handle their vessels safely in simulated difficult marine environments so as to sharpen their skills and increase their confidence when they are out on the open sea.

Singapore's robust development as a premier global hub port and international maritime centre is by no means a coincidence. Quality people, including our seafarers, have been key to Singapore's competitive advantage and MPA places a great emphasis on the development of human capital for Maritime Singapore. Let us to continue to recognise and celebrate the efforts of the dedicated seafarers beyond this day and let us recognise them in this Year of the Seafarer!

Thank you.