09 February 2010

Captain Subhangshu Dutt, Chairman of the Institute of Chartered Shipbrokers Singapore Branch,

Commodore Alan Phillips, Director and CEO, ICS

Distinguished guests,

Ladies and gentlemen,

Good morning.

I am happy to be here with you this morning at the 2nd ICS Singapore Conference.

Since the start of the turmoil caused by the sub-prime crisis some one and a half years ago, there have been extensive discussions on the outlook for the shipping market. In the end, 2009 proved to be a very challenging year for shipping, though probably not as bad as some had feared it would be. Of late, there have been some signs that things are getting better. For instance, according to Drewry's December 2009 Container Freight Rate Insight report, the end of 2009 saw the first year-on-year upturn on the global container freight rates since the start of the global recession. Nonetheless, the general mood appears to remain cautious as concerns on overcapacity, low freight rates and asset prices, and uncertainties on the full impact of the downturn continue to prevail.
Today's ICS Singapore conference is, thus, suitably themed "New Decade, New Challenges: Outlook & Strategies for the Shipping Markets". I encourage the key stakeholders present today to make use of this conference as a platform to share experiences and views, identify strategies and chart the way forward.

Singapore's Recent Performance in the Maritime industry
Singapore's economy was not spared from the economic downturn, having contracted by an estimated 2.1 per cent in 2009.In the maritime sector, the Maritime and Port Authority of Singapore or MPA is pleased that Singapore had continued to maintain its global leading position in bunker sales, vessel arrival tonnage and containers handled last year.

We are also encouraged by the maritime companies that have set up or consolidated their presence in Singapore. New maritime set-ups last year include UK-based law firm Hill Dickinson and UK-based Shipowners' P&I Club, which opened their first overseas Asian office in Singapore.International shipbroker Clarksons expanded its Singapore business by consolidating its Hong Kong dry cargo chartering operations in Singapore. Similarly, the world's second largest reinsurer, Swiss Re, moved its Hong Kong marine reinsurance operations to Singapore.

Nurturing Maritime Human Capital
In deciding where to locate their operations, maritime businesses' key considerations include access to business opportunities and human capital. Businesses are increasingly recognising the importance of human capital as a critical success factor and are therefore investing in attracting, developing and retaining talents. MPA has witnessed maritime companies going the extra mile to secure the best students even prior to their graduation by way of offering internships and scholarships as well as conducting recruitment talks at universities and polytechnics.

Given Singapore's lack of natural resources, human capital is particularly crucial in fuelling growth and the Government has placed much emphasis on nurturing human capital. MPA has, similarly for the maritime industry, put in place various maritime human capital initiatives.

MPA also worked closely with the Institutes of Higher Learning to enhance the educational landscape in Singapore, for example by increasing the spread of maritime-related disciplines available for diplomas, undergraduate and postgraduate courses. At the same time, we believe that there is value in attracting renowned courses to be offered here. Just to highlight, some of the courses supported by MPA in this year's line-up include BIMCO's "Asia Shipping School", the University of Southampton's "Maritime Law and Practice" course and the "Elements of Shipping" course offered jointly by the BI Norwegian School of Management and Nanyang Technological University.

MPA also continued to help support the industry's human capital development efforts by co-funding training attachments and course participations. Last year, 860 participants benefited from MPA's co-funding programmes. I would like to take this opportunity to encourage Singapore-based maritime companies to continue their efforts to train their employees, in order to retain their best talents and position for the upturn.

With professional institutes like ICS, MPA is also exploring collaboration on projects, such as organising a series of shipping seminars to educate specific groups such as research analysts. I would like to take this opportunity to thank ICS for its support. MPA will be happy to consider ideas and suggestions by ICS on how we can continue to partner you in positioning Singapore's maritime industry for the upturn.

On this note, I wish you a successful conference ahead. Thank you.