29 September 2011

Mr Lam Yi Young, Chief Executive, Maritime and Port Authority of Singapore,

Mr Robin Foo, President, Singapore Maritime Officers' Union,

Mr Kam Soon Huat, General-Secretary, Singapore Organisation of Seamen,

Mr Patrick Phoon, President, Singapore Shipping Association,

Mr Lee Wai Pong, Chairman, Missions to Seafarers,

Ladies and Gentlemen,

I am pleased to join you this morning to celebrate World Maritime Day. This is the 9th year that the Maritime and Port Authority of Singapore (MPA), the Singapore Maritime Officers' Union (SMOU) and the Singapore Organisation of Seamen (SOS) are jointly organising this ceremony to pay tribute to all our seafaring brethren.

Seafaring is a noble and challenging vocation. It is no exaggeration to say that shipping is the lifeblood of the global economy, and about 90% of global trade is still sea-borne. Seafarers spend long periods of time at sea, away from family and friends while braving the elements of nature. On this World Maritime Day, we gather here, therefore, to salute our seafarers for their tireless contributions to the maritime industry and world trade.

To commemorate the occasion, MPA and our seafarer unions will be giving out 600 gift hampers to ships that call at Singapore today. It is a token of Singapore's commitment to the welfare of our sea-going men and women.

Piracy: Orchestrating a Response

The International Maritime Organisation (IMO) has declared the theme for this year's World Maritime Day as "Piracy: Orchestrating a Response". Indeed, piracy poses a serious threat to shipping. It is a complex problem whose solution lies on shore rather than at sea. But it is a challenge that requires a global response. No single country will be able to solve this on its own.

As a major maritime nation and an international hub port, Singapore takes a serious view against piracy and the harm that it poses to seafarers, as well as the pain and suffering inflicted on their friends and families. We have therefore joined the international community to address the piracy threat in the Gulf of Aden. Earlier this year, Singapore successfully completed our second stint in command of the multinational Combined Task Force 151. The Singapore Armed Forces (SAF) has also recently deployed its third task group to support the anti-piracy operations in the Gulf of Aden.

Closer to home, piracy incidents are being managed through close cooperation with regional countries and industries. We also work with institutions like the ReCAAP Information Sharing Centre to safeguard the Straits of Malacca and Singapore against piracy and armed robbery at sea.

But we cannot be complacent. The areas where the pirates ply their trade are large and expanding. It is not possible for naval forces to cover every ship and patrol every square mile. We therefore encourage ship owners and managers to do their part and diligently implement the industry-developed and IMO-endorsed Best Management Practices to protect their ships against piracy.

Supporting Seafarers

Back home, some 12,000 seafarers from all over the world arrive in Singapore every year. As part of our commitment to promote the welfare of seafarers, we strive to make their stay here as comfortable and hassle-free as possible. The MPA has worked with the Seafarer Unions and Missions to enhance our facilities and support services for visiting seafarers. The Singapore Mariners' Club, for example, offers a 'home away from home' with well-furnished apartments and an array of amenities. For the seafarers with short layovers, we have also established International Drop-In Centres within our cargo terminals that offer internet and telephone services so that they can keep in touch with loved ones.

For our local seafarers, MPA provides a number of welfare schemes such as educational grants and retirement awards. MPA also works closely with the industry and the unions to attract young talent to take up seafaring careers and to ensure that our seafarers have opportunities to upgrade their skills.


Today, Singapore's status as a premier hub port and a vibrant international maritime centre is a result of the dedication of our seafarers and other members of our maritime workforce, as well as the strong partnership between the Government, unions and industry. Such collaboration will continue to position our maritime industry and maritime workers well.

On this note, I wish everyone a happy World Maritime Day. Thank you.