WELCOME ADDRESS BY MR. NIAM CHIANG MENG, CHAIRMAN OF MARITIME AND PORT AUTHORITY OF SINGAPORE AT THE OPENING CEREMONY OF THE 44TH ASEAN PORTS ASSOCIATION MEETING ON 27 NOVEMBER 2018, AT THE CONRAD CENTENNIAL HOTEL, SINGAPORE

27 November 2018

APA Chairman, Mr. Muhammad Razif Bin Ahmad

APA Secretary-General, Ms. Mimi Mazira Mohd Idris

Head of APA Permanent Secretariat, Ms. Angelina Llose
Heads of Delegations and Delegates from all APA Member Countries,
Ladies and Gentlemen,

 

Introduction

1        Welcome to Singapore for the 44th ASEAN Ports Association Meeting.

 

2        I am happy to see the strong turnout from our ASEAN port colleagues. Thank you for taking time from your busy schedules to attend this meeting.

 

ASEAN’s Future Prospects

 

3        I have 3 points to make today:

 

          First, collectively ASEAN is a huge market. Home to 635 million people and currently the world’s seventh largest economy, ASEAN is at the heart of global opportunities. It is projected to be the fourth largest economy in the world with a GDP growth averaging 5.4% by 2030. And maritime transport which carries close to 90% of world trade will remain a crucial backbone in the next phase of ASEAN's economic growth.

 

4        Second, in order to continue to grow for the future, we must collectively address the changes and transformations that are occurring in the shipping and port sector today. What are some of these? The restructuring of mega-alliances has increased competition amongst ports; technology is disrupting and transforming the way the port industry operates - we will see more port operations being automated and in the longer term, autonomous surface vessels; changes in the global operating environment with new regulatory requirements will also play a key role in determining our effectiveness. We must address these and other challenges if we want to be relevant and compete with the rest of the world.

 

Leveraging on Technology in the ASEAN Ports Association

 

5        Let me just say a word about technology. I believe technology today has reached a critical turning point. It's currently at where economists would call the Rostovian take off stage. We are already seeing extremely fast take up in technology use in other industries and our industry cannot be too far behind. Much of these will be driven by lower technological cost and exponential growth in technological developments whether it be battery technology, autonomous vessel technology, nanotechnology or Artificial Intelligence (AI).

 

6        And if I were to take AI to illustrate the level of development - In 1997 IBM's Deep Blue beat world chess champion Gary Kasparov. In that match, Deep Blue's software analysed 200mn moves a second and won. That was the first time humans lost to computers. Recently, we see real AI learning techniques being developed. In Dec 2017 Google released AlphaZero to compete against Stockfish the current world chess computer champion. Stockfish has millions of games in its database. Alphazero after just 9 hours of self training via self play beat it. No database of games, no domain knowledge. Just an algorithm and the rules of chess. It defeated Stockfish version 8 in a time controlled 100 game tournament. It had 28 wins, 0 losses and 72 draws. Most importantly, it does not need data. My point is that technology development has grown quickly, gathered momentum and is now much more integrative, more capable, very much more powerful and can be very useful to all. Technology will inevitably play a crucial role in port operations of the future. We need to embrace it, to use it to enhance our services and achieve greater efficiencies. Of course the flip side is cost. We have to bear that in mind even as we look at the opportunities it brings us.

 

Moving Forward through Greater Collaboration

 

8        My third point. We need to strengthen our level of collaboration and cooperation. We cannot go it alone anymore. Not only will that be difficult to do because of insufficient resources but it will also not be wise as we need to be plugged into the global grid so that we are aware of what is happening quickly and can help solve problems or seize opportunities. The 39th APA Working Committee Meeting did much when it encouraged member port authorities to broaden the scope of their training policies to benefit port personnel from other APA-member port authorities.

 

9        In this regard, Singapore will be happy to work with like-minded APA members to help in building up our collective capabilities. For example, the MPA Academy provide courses for leadership training for port and maritime officials. Singapore is also committed to share on our experience to enhance navigational safety of ships through for example, the Safety@Sea campaign that involves port authorities. APA can also be the platform that facilitates and provides training programmes on leveraging the application of technology to serve the future needs and requirements of the new generation ports.

 

10      So the three points once again: First: ASEAN is a big market with lots of opportunities. Maritime transport is a key area that can contribute significantly to our economic growth. Second: We must collectively address the changes and transformations that are occurring in the shipping and port sector today if we are to continue to grow in future. Third: We need to collaborate and share knowledge and information. Cannot do it alone.

 

Conclusion

 

11      In conclusion, free trade and economic integration has been integral to the peace and prosperity in Southeast Asia over the last 50 years. Just as ASEAN has remained a testament to the benefits of free trade and economic integration, APA needs to remain open to the sharing of information to address new challenges and embrace new changes. It has to leverage on technology and enhance its human resource development and capabilities to meet future operational needs.

 

12      Let me end with a quote from our former Foreign Minister S Rajaratnam in 1967 which I think is still very much relevant today. He said: If we don't hang together, we shall all hang separately."

 

13      With that, I wish everyone a robust and fruitful discussion ahead. It is with great pleasure that I now declare the 44th ASEAN Ports Association Meeting open