19 October 2009

Your Excellency, Paul Madden, British High Commissioner to Singapore
Mr Lam Yi Young, Chief Executive, Maritime and Port Authority of Singapore
Mr Mike Robinson, Chief Executive, UK Hydrographic Office,
Distinguished Guests
Ladies and Gentlemen

1 It is a great pleasure for me to join you this morning at the opening of the 3rd International Electronic Chart and Display Information Systems (ECDIS) Conference and Exhibition. Let me thank the organisers, the Maritime and Port Authority of Singapore, or MPA; and the United Kingdom Hydrographic Office, or UKHO, for inviting me. Let me also extend a very warm welcome to our foreign guests.

2 The 1st and 2nd International ECDIS Conferences were held in Singapore in 1998 and 2003 respectively. We are therefore delighted to play host once again this year As the world's busiest port located at the crossroads of major global shipping routes, Singapore has always had an interest in ensuring and enhancing the safety of navigation in the Straits of Malacca and Singapore, as well as other major international waterways. Even before the first ECDIS conference, MPA has worked to champion the adoption of ECDIS, or Electronic Chart and Display Information Systems, and ENCs, or Electronic Navigational Charts, as effective tools for navigation.

Significance and timeliness of conference
3 Both Singapore and the UK have been active at the International Maritime Organization in advocating the adoption of ECDIS because of our shared interest in the safety of navigation. In June this year, the IMO announced a six-year timeframe beginning from 2012 to make the use of ECDIS mandatory for large passenger, tanker and cargo ships. This conference and exhibition is therefore all the more timely, and I hope that it will serve as a useful platform for government authorities and industry alike to better understand the ECDIS requirements and implications.

4 This is important because the transition to ECDIS is significant for the shipping community. The benefits of ECDIS include greater precision in ship position information and optimal route planning. These in turn lead to safer and more efficient shipping. With ECDIS, the management of large ships will also become easier, reducing the number of crew and allowing safer voyages at higher speeds. Going forward, we should make good use of this transition period to factor in practical training, retrofit equipment and produce relevant ENCs. With these in mind, we hope that the conference will allow existing ECDIS users to share firsthand their implementation challenges, and jointly work together with the rest of the community to work out solutions to these challenges.

International Cooperation
5 At the same time, ensuring the safety of navigation also requires close cooperation amongst governments. At the international level, both the IMO and the International Hydrographic Organization have been key players in advocating the use of ECDIS, and Singapore strongly supports their efforts. At the regional level, Singapore is privileged to chair the East Asia Hydrographic Commission that produced the first South China Sea ENCs in 2005. With strong cooperation from other EAHC members - China, Indonesia, Japan, Malaysia, North Korea, the Philippines, South Korea and Thailand - these ENCs cover some of the busiest shipping routes in Asia.

6 Closer to home and well ahead of the mandatory implementation of ECDIS, the three littoral states - Malaysia, Indonesia and Singapore - have come together to produce ENCs for the Straits of Malacca and Singapore, a key straits used for international navigation. Such cooperation is indicative of our commitment to the safety of navigation and in some ways, laid the groundwork for the eventual introduction of ECDIS.

7 At a bilateral level, Singaporeand the Indonesian Hydrographic Office have also recognised the need to further enhance safety of high speed passenger ferries that cut across the Singapore Strait to reach their destinations. The outcome was the 2007 joint production and successful sea trial of the Batam-Rempang-Galang or the Barelang - Singapore ENCs, which cover key ferry routes as well as terminals in Riau and Singapore.

8 However, we cannot rest on our laurels. There is always more that can be done for navigational safety, and we should strive to be at the forefront in harnessing technology to achieve this objective. Looking forward, Singapore will be working with Hong Kong to jointly produce the first high-density ENC for selected channels within Singapore's and Hong Kong's port waters. The new ENC will make use of the latest technology in surveying to provide more detailed seabed topography. This development is all the more significant as it marks a move away from ENCs based on existing paper charts, towards ENCs based directly on survey sources, which will offer more accurate and detailed information to users.

UKHO Office in Singapore
9 I am encouraged by the many examples of countries coming together in pursuit of a shared interest to promote and ensure navigational safety for shipping. This conference itself is a good example. I am also pleased to note that as a result of the strong and long-standing working relationship between the MPA and the UKHO, the UKHO has taken a significant step this year with the setting-up of its first offshore office in Singapore. This development bears testimony to the UKHO's commitment to work with the hydrographic offices of Singapore and its counterparts throughout Asia. Together with MPA, the UKHO will also be conducting the region's first accredited cartographic and ENC training next year.

10 Ladies and Gentlemen, Singapore remains firmly committed to the goal of navigational safety for shipping. I am sure the members of the international maritime community gathered here are of the same mind. I hope that this event will provide you with the opportunity to share experiences and engage in fruitful discussions. I wish you all a successful conference. Thank you.