12 October 2011

Mr Teo Siong Seng, Chairman of the Singapore Maritime Institute Board and Governing Council,

SMI Board and Governing Council members,

Mr Heng Chiang Gnee, Executive Director of SMI,

Distinguished friends from the maritime community,

Ladies and gentlemen,

Good morning to all of you,

Let me start by congratulating the Singapore Maritime Institute (or SMI) on its success in inaugurating this forum and more so in bringing together so many distinguished maritime professionals and experts to this very first SMI Forum. I am pleased to join you this morning and look forward to a fruitful discussion later.

Importance of the Singapore Maritime Cluster

As we all know, from our humble beginnings as an entrepot outpost, Singapore has grown to become a leading transhipment hub and a major shipping nation. The Maritime Cluster, comprising our Hub Port, Shipping, Maritime Services, and Offshore and Marine Engineering sectors, has become a key and integral part of the Singapore economy. Today, the Maritime Cluster contributes about 7% of Singapore's GDP and employs some 170,000 people. Our registry of ships is one of the 10 largest in the world. I think in 2009, we were in sixth position. But more than that, we have a quality register. The average age of the fleet is about nine years. In terms of port activity, there is a very good chance that our port will cross the 2 billion gross tons mark in vessel arrival tonnage before the end of the year.

As an International Maritime Centre (IMC), we now have more than 100 international shipping groups and over 5,000 maritime related companies with operations in Singapore. Our shore-based ecosystem of ancillary maritime services extend to law, finance, insurance, brokerage and all these areas are developing at a satisfactory pace.

In the offshore and marine engineering sector, Singapore has also done very well. In fact, we have about 70% of global market share in jack-up rigs and the conversion of Floating Production Storage and Offloading platforms.

These achievements would not have been possible were it not for a very dedicated group of professionals as well as a close partnership and cooperation between the Government and the maritime industry. In many ways, we credit the success of Maritime Singapore to the effort and contribution of industry players such as yourselves who have been working with the Government throughout the years to nurture Maritime Singapore to what it is today.

SMI: Creating a Maritime Knowledge Hub

One good example of the collaboration between industry and Government is in the area of education and R&D. 10 years ago, we had no dedicated maritime programmes and really it was a result of the feedback gathered from the industry that we first embarked on the programme to build up degree programmes at the Bachelors level as well as the Masters level in order that we can over time develop a tight mind of young professionals coming into the industry, gain experience and thereafter be able to contribute in a multitude of ways. Today, we have dedicated Bachelors as well as Masters programmes, with majors in Maritime Studies.

It is important that we continuously improve our value proposition by providing not only higher service standards, not only adopting the latest technologies, but that we are a knowledge hub providing a degree of thought leadership on important matters concerning the maritime industry.

Today, we are growing a vibrant maritime education and research ecosystem. There is a wide spectrum of research capabilities available at our local Institutes of Higher Learning and at the research centres within the Agency for Science, Technology and Research (or A*STAR). To sustain Singapore's competitive edge, we will need to attract more high-end R&D activities and better align our research agenda with the needs of the industry.

So, it is for this reason that the SMI was set up in 2010 as a joint initiative between the Maritime and Port Authority of Singapore (or MPA), the Economic Development Board (or EDB) and A*STAR. The goal of the Institute is to develop strategies and programmes in three key areas: (i) maritime education; (ii) maritime policy research; and (iii) maritime R&D. I am told that SMI has already started working with our local Institutes of Higher Learning (IHLs) to set up maritime centres at the Nanyang Technological University (NTU), National University of Singapore (NUS) and Singapore Polytechnic (SP). I hope this will position SMI more strongly to effectively develop Singapore as a Maritime Knowledge Hub. So, it is not just only the activities taking place in our local IHLs; We need to identify like-minded partners around the world that we can work with, collaborate on, find areas where we can mutually stimulate each other and join together to create new knowledge and to develop new areas of concerns.

Next Generation Container Port Challenge

To further spur innovation in the maritime industry, I am pleased to announce that SMI and MPA plan to launch the "Next Generation Container Port Challenge" at the Singapore Maritime Week which will be held in April next year. So, this is really a teaser of what is to come and because of the big prize at the end of that whole process, I think it is useful to give the industry a little bit of advance notice and so that you can all participate in the Challenge.

Those in the industry will know that the basic design of a container port has remained largely unchanged for decades. But really, it is a simple plot of land with stacks of containers surrounded by cranes to lift boxes on and off ships. While there have been some improvements in port technologies, these are mostly incremental changes.

Yet on the demand side, things have changed much more dramatically. Not so long ago, the workhorse of the Asia-Europe trade was a 6,000 TEU container ship. When I was with MPA, we were looking at 8,000 TEU ships. That soon went up to 12,000 TEUs and in the near future we are looking at 18,000 TEU ships. At the same time, safety, security and the need to put in place environmentally sustainable practices are putting more demands on port infrastructure; to say nothing of the need for space to accommodate growth. In land-scarce Singapore, these present us with a real and immediate challenge. But it is a challenge that we must be prepared to meet head on. We don't think we should do it alone but it is an area where we want to source for ideas from the best and brightest from Singapore and all over the world.

The "Next Generation Container Port Challenge" has therefore been conceived to dare participants from all over the world to look into the future, think beyond existing conventions and to submit radical new designs for the next generation of container ports. We want them to not only to think out of the box, but really we want them to think ahead of the box! The winning concept will have to embody innovation, efficiency, productivity and sustainability and all within certain central elements. And because it is such an important challenge, we will be offering a US$1 million dollar cash prize to the winner. SMI and MPA will release more information closer to the launch in April 2012. In the meantime, I encourage industry and academia to start thinking about this, put your heads together, especially think beyond the existing conventions and come up with something is radically different but practical at the same time.

So, over the next few months, MPA, SMI and other supporting agencies will engage industry players and academia from all over the world to share more about the Challenge and invite them to form teams to participate.


Let me conclude by emphasising that the continued partnership between the government, industry and academia remains the cornerstone of an innovative, enterprising and vibrant maritime cluster in Singapore. I hope that today's Forum and all that the SMI will strive to do in the years to come will serve as a platform for many more collaborations ahead, to develop new ideas and innovation that can reinvent the way we do business.

On this note, I wish all of us a very fruitful forum ahead. Thank you.