OPENING ADDRESS BY MR TEO CHEE HEAN, DEPUTY PRIME MINISTER AND MINISTER FOR DEFENCE, AT THE OPENING OF SEA ASIA 2011, AT THE SANDS EXPO AND CONVENTION CENTRE, MARINA BAY SANDS SINGAPORE ON TUESDAY, 12 APRIL 2011, AT 9.00 AM
Minister Lim Hwee Hua,
Mr Lucien Wong, Chairman, Maritime and Port Authority of Singapore,
Mr Michael Chia, Chairman, Singapore Maritime Foundation,
Mr Chris Hayman, Chairman, Seatrade,
Ladies and Gentlemen,
It gives me great pleasure to join you at the opening of Sea Asia 2011.
I am told that this year's Sea Asia is the largest to date with over 12,000 participants from more than 60 countries. Your participation reaffirms Sea Asia's position as a premier event for the international maritime community and a signature event for the Singapore Maritime Week.
When Sea Asia was last held in 2009, we were in the middle of a global economic recession and the outlook was highly uncertain. With grit and determination, the maritime industry weathered the economic storm. Two years on, there are much clearer skies and calmer seas ahead. Last year, global seaborne trade grew by six per cent. Shipping lines chalked up a combined profit of about US$17 billion compared to the loss of some US$20 billion in 2009. Much of this growth originated from and has reverberated across Asia. The Singapore port, together with many throughout Asia, achieved robust, double-digit growth in container volumes last year.
But even as the maritime industry benefits from Asia's growth, recent events remind us of the need to stay vigilant against events that could still threaten global trade. First, global supply chains have been disrupted because of the extensive damage to Japan's industries, ports and merchant fleet during last month's tragic earthquake and tsunami. Meanwhile, we still cannot be sure how long it will be before the situation at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant stabilises, and we can begin to assess the extent of the damage to commerce in the short term and confidence in the longer term.
Second, rising prices of oil due to instability in the Middle East and North Africa has increased costs to shipping and if it persists, will have an adverse impact on world economic growth.
Third, overlaying these external developments are structural factors that further complicate the outlook for the maritime industry. Those of you in the industry are well aware of the number of new vessels being delivered both this and next year. Coupled with softening demand, the supply overhang could depress shipping rates even further.
Asia's Emerging Voice in World Shipping
Notwithstanding these uncertainties, it is altogether fitting that Sea Asia 2011 has chosen to adopt the theme, "The Asian Voice in World Shipping", to recognise Asia's important role in steering the industry through the choppier waters ahead. Today, Asian shipowners control over half of the world's fleet while 8 out of the world's top 10 container ports are located in Asia. In addition, Asian shipyards handle about 85 per cent of the world's shipbuilding orders. As Asia continues to fuel the growth in global trade, intra-Asia trade will become a key focal point for shipping lines.
With this concentration of major stakeholders, the Asian shipping community must play an active role in addressing common shipping concerns and promote sustainable long-term growth. A major concern is the growing demand for ship financing and other maritime services to support the industry in a more volatile economy. Many leading maritime service providers have already established offices in Asia to be in closer proximity to their customers but there is still room for them to do more in Asia.
Another key concern is the availability of quality maritime manpower. As the maritime industry grows and diversifies, we will need more competent crews on ships as well as shore-based professionals. Training, upgrading and investing in manpower will continue to be one of the industry's top priorities.
Singapore Maritime Cluster: Positioning for Growth
As a major maritime hub, Singapore is well-placed to support Asia's role in addressing these challenges. In recent years, Singapore has developed a vibrant maritime services cluster that offers a compelling value proposition for maritime businesses. Today, Singapore is home to about 110 major shipping groups and over 5,000 maritime companies. Every maritime industry gathering is like a mini United Nations gathering with peoples from many countries from all parts of the world. Looking across the room - tonight is no different! This diversity and breath of maritime services, together with Singapore's excellent connectivity and reliable infrastructure, provides an attractive environment for maritime companies to tap on growth opportunities in Asia.
To enable the maritime industry to tap on these growth opportunities, the Singapore Government remains committed to working with the industry to grow a comprehensive range of maritime services and a core of maritime talent to meet the evolving demands of the industry. We have put in place various schemes to support maritime service providers and will ensure that they remain relevant to the industry. Last year, I announced the launch of the Singapore Maritime Institute to develop Singapore as a leading centre for maritime research and education. This Institute is forging a partnership between the Government, industry and academic institutions to drive research and development in maritime technology in Singapore and groom maritime talent.
It is also equally important for Singapore's maritime industry to raise productivity by investing in human capital and harnessing technology. The Singapore Government recently committed S$2 billion from the National Productivity Fund to enhance productivity across all sectors of the economy, including the maritime sector. Maritime companies can also tap on the Maritime and Port Authority of Singapore's (MPA) S$50 million Maritime Cluster Fund (MCF) to support training and career development of their staff. In addition, MPA's Maritime Innovation and Technology (MINT) Fund can support companies to raise productivity by sharpening their business processes.
Ladies and Gentlemen, Sea Asia 2011 takes place in exciting times. While uncertainties loom, I am confident that the industry will again rise to the challenge. The outlook for the long term is a positive one, particularly for Asia. Over the next three days, you will have many occasions to share insights and perspectives on the many great opportunities in your industry.
I am now pleased to declare Sea Asia officially open and wish you all a fruitful conference and a rewarding experience at the 6th Singapore Maritime Week.