27 April 2012

Mr Heng Chiang Gnee, Executive Director, Singapore Maritime Institute

Distinguished friends from the maritime community,

Ladies and gentlemen,

Good afternoon. It gives me great pleasure to join you today for the launch of the Next Generation Container Port Challenge, which is jointly organised by the Singapore Maritime Institute (SMI) and the Maritime and Port Authority of Singapore (MPA).

This Challenge is a timely one as we celebrate 40 years of containerisation in Singapore this year and chart the next chapter of our international premier hub port. Singapore was an early adopter of container shipping. Industry veterans may recall that Singapore launched our first container terminal in Tanjong Pagar in 1972. At that time, we were only the second country in Asia, after Japan, to build a container terminal. Since then, we have capitalised on our first mover advantage and the strong growth of Asia to become one of the world's busiest container ports. This has been made all the more possible by our continuous investment in infrastructure and technology.

Future Challenges for Container Ports
Looking ahead, Singapore and other container ports must continue to innovate to meet the future needs of container shipping. On the demand side, global container traffic has been growing at an annual rate of about five to seven per cent in the last decade. Some experts estimate that if this growth rate continues, the global container trade will double within the next 10 to 15 years . Given the long gestation period for port development, this means that ports have to start making plans today to accommodate tomorrow's growth in container volumes. Planners also have to take into account increasingly large container ships that require deeper drafts, longer berths and wider channels. Compounding this are greater economic volatility and environmental concerns, which put increasing pressure on ports to provide their services in a cost-efficient yet environmentally sustainable manner.

On the supply side, port operators have responded with greater use of information technology and automation to manage increasingly complex operations. Many ports, especially those located in metropolitan cities like Singapore, are also finding ways to increase efficiency to overcome their land and labour constraints.

Notwithstanding these changes, the fundamental design of a container port has not changed much since it was introduced some 40 years ago. To be future-ready, the industry needs to challenge conventional thinking and explore radical new ideas for future container ports.

Next Generation Container Port Challenge
It is for this reason that land-scarce Singapore has conceived the Next Generation Container Port Challenge. This Challenge dares participants to play the role of a port planner and submit revolutionary designs that can achieve a quantum leap in innovation, efficiency, productivity and sustainability for container ports. The winner stands to win a US$1 million cash prize. We will also set aside an additional S$5 million to support further development of other deserving submissions. The results of the Challenge will be announced in a year's time.

I am heartened by the industry's response since this Challenge was announced last October. SMI and MPA have received about 70 expressions of interest from industry and academia from more than 10 countries. This Challenge is also a good opportunity for academia to partner industry practitioners to tackle real-world challenges. You will soon hear the Executive Director of SMI, Mr Heng Chiang Gnee, share details of the challenge statement.

Ladies and gentlemen, the Next Generation Container Port Challenge presents a major step forward for the maritime industry. This Challenge is also the first of many SMI initiatives to come that will to enhance maritime R&D in Singapore and grow Singapore as a maritime knowledge hub.

I thank you for supporting this Challenge and I look forward to hearing your ideas. Thank you.