10 May 2018

Ms Magdalene Chew, President of WISTA Singapore,
Ms Despina Theodosiou, President of WISTA International
Distinguished guests,

       Good morning. It is my privilege to join all of you here today.  First, let me extend a warm welcome to our overseas visitors. I would also like to congratulate WISTA Singapore on the milestone of its 20th anniversary.

2     The theme of today’s conference is interesting and relevant for us, as the centre of economic gravity increasingly shifts towards Asia.  The industry is also seeing unprecedented consolidation within the liner segment, greater emphasis on technology and new business models being formulated. I hope that you will find the discussions insightful.

3     I asked Magdalene what should I cover in my speech and she suggested that I could share with you about Singapore’s development as a maritime hub.


4     Singapore is a relatively young nation. We will be celebrating our 200 years of founding next year.  However our maritime heritage extends back to the 14th century, where our strategic location allowed us to flourish as a trading hub. The founding of Singapore as a free port in 1819, together with the onset of steamships and opening of the Suez Canal, established our position as a port of call connecting East and West. This is a role we continue to play today.

5     However, a strategic location alone could not have guaranteed our position as a global hub port. There is a need to plan and to take calculated risks. The decision to build our first container berth back in the 1970s when container shipping was still nascent, remains a defining moment in Singapore’s maritime history.

6     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, not just for cargo-handling, but for the one-stop suite of services offered by our port, such as repairs, supplies, crew change and bunkering.  We are the largest bunkering hub in the world, with over 50 million tonnes of bunker sales in 2017.   We are glad that our port is able to serve the needs of the shipping community well.

7     Beyond the physical port, we have established a vibrant international maritime centre, or 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 in the range and scale of services and activities. There are now more than 140 international shipping groups based in Singapore, supported by dense and diverse networks 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 bynine IG P&I Clubs out of 13 Clubs globally, with 20 Lloyd’s Asia service companies writing marine and/or offshore business.

8     Today, we are recognised as a leading IMC in international benchmarking studies by Menon Business Economics and the Xinhua-Baltic Exchange, which ranked Singapore as the leading maritime capital and international shipping centre respectively. We are also home to the fifth largest ship registry, with over 88 million GT registered.


9     The maritime sector is an important economic pillar.  It contributes to about 7 percent of our GDP and employs about 170,000 people.  While we have made much progress, we are mindful that we must continue to be responsive and adapt to change, as we enter a new world order. While the economy is improving, the geopolitical landscape continues to be in flux which could affect trade flows. Even as the industry explores the opportunities offered by digitalisation, threats such as cybersecurity risks  must be addressed. I understand that some of these opportunities and challenges will be discussed today, such as China’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) and the need for greater cybersecurity. These are timely conversations to have.

10     Amidst an increasingly complex operating environment, MPA has embarked on several major plans to ensure Maritime Singapore is future-ready and stays ahead of the curve. These are our Next Generation Port 2030 (NGP 2030) initiative, our IMC 2030 review, and the Sea Transport Industry Transformation Map. I will share briefly each of these plans.

a     NGP 2030 initiative:
i     The NGP 2030 initiative is both about building physical capacity and new capabilities. We are investing in future capacity of up to 65 million TEUs at Tuas, as a testament to the Government’s commitment to long-term future of the maritime sector. We are on track to have the first berths operational by 2021.

ii     Beyond physical capacity, NGP 2030 is about building new port capabilities to achieve greater efficiency and connectivity to serve key shipping companies and alliances. My colleague, Mr Eugene Khoo will share more about our efforts on the NGP front in the panel discussion on “Ports and Terminals” later.

b     IMC 2030 review:
i     Our IMC is a key part of our Maritime Singapore eco-system. As we move towards a digital era, the IMC will help attract non-physical flows such as finance, people, data, and information, which will become increasingly important.
ii     In Aug 2016, MPA worked closely with leaders from diverse industry segments through the IMC Advisory Committee to undertake a strategic review of our IMC programme. The Committee recommended a vivid vision for Singapore to be the Global Maritime Hub for “Connectivity”, “Innovation” and “Talent”, underpinned by five strategies. These are to:
1     Expand and deepen the maritime cluster;
2     Strengthen inter-linkages and network effects;
3     Develop a vibrant maritime innovation ecosystem and promote digitalisation;
4     Develop a multi-skilled maritime workforce with a global mindset; and
5     Establish Singapore as a global maritime standard bearer

c     Sea Transport Industry Transformation Map:
i     Efforts to strengthen our global hub port and international maritime centre will dovetail with the Sea Transport Industry Transformation Map (ITM), which was launched in January this year. The ITM will prepare and position the maritime industry for the future, with its emphasis on promoting innovation, raising productivity, developing skills, and enhancing our connectivity.


11     On that note about preparing the maritime industry for the future, I hope that we will see more women join the maritime sector.  When I first entered the industry, it was really a male dominated industry - you can literally count the number of females in the room.  It can be quite daunting and one must really work heard to be heard.  Today, the environment is different, we see more women joining the industry, heading international organisations and helming family businesses. On the slide we have some notable examples of women in the maritime industry. Of course, we should not forget the exceptional women in WISTA who are with us today, such as Magdalene and Despina. As we move towards a knowledge-based and digital era, skillsets in these areas will be needed, such as in data analytics and machine learning. Whether one is male or female will become less salient.

12     More can be done to bring more females into the maritime sector. As part of our efforts to attract the younger generation to join the maritime industry, we introduced the MPA Global Internship Award in 2013 to provide our local undergraduates the opportunity to gain practical insights into the global maritime industry, through internships at local and overseas offices of maritime companies. Since 2013, we are heartened that we are seeing more females take up the internships, and currently they make up about half of the cohort of interns. WISTA has an important role to play as well.  Apart from creating networking opportunities, WISTA can be a platform where the established female executives can be mentors or role models for younger aspiring females to tap on – to share experiences and to support one another.


13     Once again, my warmest congratulations to WISTA on the milestone of their 20th anniversary.  I hope that you will have a fruitful discussion.  To our overseas visitors, I hope that you will have a pleasant stay and a safe flight home.

14     Thank you.