04 October 2011

Mr Jose Lamug, Chairman of the International Committee on Seafarers' Welfare Southeast Asia Regional Welfare Committee

Mr Tom Holmer, Trust Administrative Officer of International Transport Federation

Mr Roger Harris, Executive Director of International Committee on Seafarers' Welfare

Mr Dewa Budiasa, Regional Coordinator International Committee on Seafarers' Welfare

Rev. Peter Manimuthu, Singapore Organising Committee

All Southeast Asia Regional Welfare Committee Members

Distinguished Guests, and Friends

Good morning to all of you.

It is my pleasure to join you here today for the 8th International Committee on Seafarers' Welfare (or ICSW) South East Asia - Regional Welfare Committee Meeting. First, I would like to commend the good work of ICSW, for its dedication and active interest in promoting seafarers' welfare. Let me also extend a warm welcome to all of you, and especially to our visiting friends from abroad.

More than 90% of world trade is carried by sea and seafarers play a critical role in enabling ships to trade safely and efficiently. Without these seafarers, the global economy would suffer a serious decline. The life of a seafarer is by no means an easy one. Seafarers need to be alert, highly trained, qualified and most importantly, motivated. Seafarers are often out of touch with their families, friends, love ones and the wider world when out in the open sea. It is therefore important to care for our seafarers, and to address their needs and concerns.

Seafarers' Welfare in Singapore
Singapore recognises the challenges that seafarers face and the sacrifices they make. We therefore strive to make their stay in the Port of Singapore as pleasant as possible. To this end, the Maritime and Port Authority of Singapore (or MPA) has teamed up with the seafarer unions and seafarer missions to boost facilities and support services for seafarers.

For foreign seafarers calling at our port, the Singapore Mariners' Club or SMC serves as a 'home away from home'. Owned by MPA, the club is located near the port precinct, and provides seafarers with competitively-priced apartments, well-furnished and equipped with amenities including internet facilities. For the ease and convenience of seafarers who do not have time to leave the port area, we have also established Drop-In Centres within our cargo terminals to provide internet and phone facilities.

For our local seafarers, MPA administers a number of financial assistance schemes that cover educational grants and long service retirement awards. For example, MPA provides grants for our local seamen who wish to upgrade their skills and improve their qualifications. MPA contributes to the Singapore Stranded Seafarers Fund, and administers this in partnership with the unions - the Singapore Maritime Officers' Union, and the Singapore Organisation of Seamen. MPA also provides conciliation services to help resolve disputes between employers and seafarers onboard Singapore-flagged ships.

Loneliness, fatigue, stress and isolation from loved ones are just some of the problems seafarers face. MPA provides an annual grant of S$100,000 to support the work of the seafarer missions in Singapore, ranging from ship visitations to counselling services and pastoral care offered by these missions.

I am happy to share that seafarers can also look forward to a host of sports and recreational activities when they are in Singapore. MPA regularly organises activities such as sightseeing tours, shopping trips around Singapore as well as the International Sportweek for Seafarers, Singapore Cup Futsal Tournament for Seafarers and the International Bowling Tournament.

Singapore's Commitment to the Maritime Labour Convention 2006

Singapore's commitment to improve seafarers' welfare will be supplemented and strengthened by the developments of the Maritime Labour Convention (or MLC) 2006, which was adopted by the International Labour Organisation (ILO) to safeguard the well-being and working conditions of seafarers. MLC 2006 ensures minimum standards in the working conditions for seafarers. These include conditions of employment, wages, health protection, and hours of work/rest among others.

As a responsible maritime nation, Singapore had actively participated in the discussions that led to the adoption of this important Convention. I am pleased to mention that on 14th June this year, Singapore became the first Asian country to ratify the MLC 2006 with the full support of our tripartite partners - the seafarer unions and the National Trade Union Congress, as well as the maritime industry and the Singapore National Employers' Federation. Our ratification of the MLC is part of our commitment to achieve decent working conditions for seafarers as well as to apply the MLC provisions to Singapore-registered ships world-wide and ships that call at our ports.

Currently, 19 countries have deposited their instruments of ratification and the MLC will come into force when 30 countries with 33 percent of the world's gross tonnage have ratified. The countries that ratified have already exceeded the tonnage requirement and it is expected that the 30 country requirement will be obtained before the end of 2011, indicating that the MLC 2006 will enter into force in 2012. In Singapore, the tripartite partners will continue with our preparations to apply the MLC provisions when the Convention comes into force.

We are grateful that our efforts to enhance the welfare of seafarers have been recognised. The Port of Singapore was named 'Port of the Year' by ICSW last year. This award is conferred to the port that has done the most for the provision and access to welfare services and facilities to seafarers. Moving forward, we will continue to work in close partnership with the seafarer unions, missions and industry to promote the interests and well-being of all seafarers.

On this note, I hope you will have a fruitful and meaningful meeting and an enjoyable stay in Singapore. Thank you.