12 January 2012

Mr Michael Chia, Chairman, Singapore Maritime Foundation

Distinguished guests,

Ladies and gentlemen,

Good evening. I am happy to join you today to welcome the New Year.

Port and Maritime Performance in 2011
2011 was indeed a challenging year for shipping.We went from a period of good growth in the second half of 2010 and early 2011, only to be met with natural disasters and the mounting debt crises in Europe and the US that threatened to derail Western economic consensus.Michael earlier touched on how shipping has been hit by the triple-whammies of softer demand, excess supply and high bunker prices.Some say that this is merely history repeating itself.

But what I am more and constantly impressed by is the tremendous resilience of the shipping community.Many of you here are no strangers to the ups and downs inherent in this industry.Indeed, such challenging market conditions have already spurred many shipping companies to reposition themselves to stay competitive.Over the last few months, we have seen a wave of consolidations among industry players. I believe that those that remain will emerge stronger, and better able to seize the opportunities afforded by Asia's continuing growth story.The Singapore Government remains committed to helping grow the maritime sector.

I am therefore heartened that Maritime Singapore continued to register good growth in all areas last year.Our advanced estimates show that our container throughput for 2011 grew by 5.3% to 29.94 million TEUs (Twenty-Foot Equivalent Units) -marginally exceeding 2008's all-time high.We maintained our position as the world's busiest port by vessel arrival tonnage with a record high of 2.12 billion gross tons (GT) for 2011.This was an increase of 10.4% from 2010.Singapore also remained the world's top bunkering port, with record total bunker sales in 2011 increasing by 5.6% to 43.15 million tonnes.

As a leading International Maritime Centre, we continue to attract a diverse range of players that enhance the breadth and depth of services here.The maritime service providers that we welcomed last year included insurance players Arthur J. Gallagher and Starr Managing Agents, maritime legal practice Mayer Brown JSM, and The Bank of Fukuoka.They add to long-time overseas partners like NYK, COSCO, IMC, Masterbulk, the Wilhelmsen Group, who have established an early presence here and whose growth is reflected in the buzz surrounding Maritime Singapore.

Looking Back at 2011
Infrastructure wise, we are still building in anticipation of growing demand.Last year, we continued with the expansion of our port's capacity at the Pasir Panjang Terminals.We also launched a third Port Operations Control Centre at Changi to enhance navigational safety.

To create a more conducive environment for businesses to grow, we announced the Maritime Sector Incentive during last year's Budget that streamlines and enhances our support for ship owners and service providers.More than a few of you in this room have been the beneficiaries of these schemes.

To further support the manpower needs of the industry, the Maritime and Port Authority of Singapore (MPA) is working with industry partners to enhance local training opportunities.One example is MPA partnering the North of England P&I Club to bring its Residential Course in P&I Insurance and Loss Prevention to Singapore last October. This was the first time the course was conducted outside the UK.I understand that the course was well-received and will be conducted again in 2013.

Even as we grow the maritime industry, we are also mindful of our custodial duty to safeguard the environment for future generations.The industry's positive response to MPA's Maritime Singapore Green Initiative is a testament to this shared commitment.Last April, 12 organisations signed the Maritime Singapore Green Pledge to affirm their support for clean and green shipping in Singapore.I am pleased to note that another 15 have signed on earlier this evening.This is highly encouraging.

Internationally, Singapore's re-election to the IMO Council last November once again enables us to play a useful part in contributing towards the maritime community's efforts on safe, secure and efficient shipping in clean oceans.

Looking Ahead
Ladies and gentlemen, as we start 2012, I am confident that the strong tripartite partnership forged over many years between government, industry and unions will again see us through the current storm. Shipping is and will remain the backbone of global trade that must eventually recover.When that comes, Maritime Singapore will be poised to take advantage of opportunities that the tides bring in.

On that note, let me also thank the SMF for organising today's gathering.May the Water Dragon shower Maritime Singapore with its blessings and bring many new and exciting opportunities in the year ahead. Thank you.