06 June 2018

r Lam Pin Min, Senior Minister of State, Ministry of Transport and Ministry of Health, 

Distinguished Guests, 

Ladies and Gentlemen, 

Good morning.

2 Thank you for attending the launch of two very exciting initiatives today. The first is the official launch of PIER71 which stands for Port Innovation Ecosystem Reimagined @ BLOCK 71. I believe this is the first dedicated maritime accelerator initiative in Asia. The second is the launch of this year’s Smart Port Challenge which will now be organised by PIER71.

3 We are pleased to have over 200 participants from various partners, maritime companies, IHLs, tech VC, players, so on and so forth. 

4 If you had asked me a few years earlier whether I would envisage the day we would set up our own start up accelerator programme for the maritime industry, I would have looked at you and said - are you kidding?

5 Fast forward today, there is no industry that is spared from the massive changes wrought by new technologies – from IoT, data analytics, digitalisation to artificial intelligence – and just as there is as much hype as there is reality to the impact of these developments, one cannot ignore them. We only need to look around us in terms of how our lifestyles, the way we work, the way we live, the way we play, even consumption and  production patterns have all changed, to appreciate the profound impact. 

6 We take Uber or Grab as conveniently as we take other forms of transport. We stay in Airbnb when we go on holidays, experience a different kind of accommodation, not to mention getting recommendations from Trip Advisor on the best places to visit. We call for a Deliveroo or Uber Eats if we need a delicious meal from any of our favourite restaurants or even hawker centres. All this from the convenience of our mobile devices, where we are perpetually connected and the comfort of our homes and offices. Faster, better and cheaper seems to be the new order of the day. Beyond this, the delivery of services that have not changed for decades, such as banking, insurance and even healthcare, are now being turned on their head.


7 Is the maritime sector prepared for disruption? As we all know, shipping is a very traditional business with many archaic practices, and I say this with no offense to my colleagues in the industry itself, it is an industry that they have inherited, so many of these practices have remain unchanged for decades. Some of that for good reason and others less so. Certain aspects are also highly inefficient, as a recent Maersk-IBM study recently showed in terms of the number of handshakes and documents required just to transport a container load of flowers, this is a very simple container load of flowers, from Mombasa in Eastern Africa to Rotterdam in Europe. The cost of the paperwork was easily 15% of the cargo’s value, not to mention the number of players and entities that were involved. I think there were more than 30 individuals, organisations, customs, so on and so forth. So, you can say, well, this is the way the business work or you can say, hey, all these inefficiencies, I scent opportunities. Opportunity to reduce the number of minimum layers, opportunities to also streamline the process itself and of course through that generate savings that can be monetised in more ways than one.

8 With rising expectations on the part of the consumers, for goods to be delivered on time, each time and all the time, the maritime industry has to adapt to these changes to stay relevant. The advent of new technologies opens up new opportunities for the industry to relook at their traditional ways of doing business. The question is how and what to do. Do I self-disrupt, which we all know is always difficult, do we create a new business model or do we work with the disrupters? These are not easy questions to answer. And we cannot answer these questions for you. But we can create opportunities for you, right here in Singapore.

9 Why? As this Innovfest unbound event shows, I mean we have, the latest I hear, 14,000 participants at today’s event – a main anchor event of our Smart Nation innovations drive, as it shows, Singapore has developed a strong innovation eco-system and in recent years, we’ve seen how this has grown leaps and bounds. In the same way that if you have asked me four years ago, I was going to embark on this, in the same way, this could happen to our maritime sector. Add to this, the fact that we are a global hub port and diverse and vibrant international maritime cluster  comprising more than 5,000 maritime-related establishments, more than 130 shipping groups, there is no reason, in my view, why Singapore cannot help catalyse the innovations that can help shipping and ports become more intelligent, efficient and sustainable. 

10 In addition, if we can approach maritime innovation in a holistic manner, by bringing together, proof of concepts with regulatory sandboxes and test-bedding in real operating conditions, I believe, we stand a good chance in differentiating Maritime Singapore and providing an additional value proposition for maritime companies to be based here.

11 PIER71 is therefore part of MPA’s efforts to promote wider innovation in the maritime sector, by providing a neutral platform for players to come together. We chose NUS Enterprise as our key partner through a MOU that we signed in January this year as they were already running a wide range of university technology programmes, incubators, seed funding schemes, mentoring to nurture current and future entrepreneurs. 

12 With NUS Enterprise bringing in their experience and expertise in this area, and MPA bringing together maritime partners and domain knowledge, we are pleased to announce the official launch of PIER71 today. PIER71 aims to grow a vibrant maritime entrepreneurial ecosystem bringing together foreign and local corporates, technology start-ups, VCs and mentors.

13 The “71” in PIER71 is not just a random number. PIER71 will be landing at the Launchpad @ BLOCK71, Singapore’s most vibrant and exciting start-up cluster, and will be co-locating with other start-up acceleration and incubation initiatives, such as Symphony Creative Solutions which is an entity set-up by the Ocean Network Express, the merger of the three Japanese container lines – NYK, K Line and MOL, ST Engineering, and many more. So it’s an eco-system that we have embedded ourselves in. We will be launching our space in August this year, so stay tuned and we look forward to welcome the first few start-ups to operate at PIER71. From here, we may expand to other locations depending on how this initiative takes off. So I hope, with your support, we can make this happen and maybe as in other parts of the world, I had the opportunity to visit Rotterdam, they have an equivalent which is right next to the harbourfront where PortXL is. Also, I made a visit to Copenhagen and I visited Pier47 that’s actually counterpart to us. Pier47, which is the Danish equivalent rainmaking as the drivers of that initiative. 

14 In addition, PIER71 will bring together maritime enterprises to develop and sharpen problem statements and explore innovative solutions to these problems. This will be  done through a series of ideathon, workshops and innovation training sessions as well as industry sharing in what we call “kopi-chat” sessions, kopi which is the local slang for coffee, coffee chat session. For example, PIER71 was happy to support the ONE’s that is Ocean Network Express, recent Ocean of Opportunities (OOO) innovation challenge and their launch of problem statements and I did this together with Jeremy Nixon which is their CEO.

Collaboration with Start-ups: Smart Port Challenge

15 Let me now to the Smart Port Challenge which will be organised by PIER71. In the first run of our Smart Port Challenge in 2017, we had 12 co-creators and received over 80 start-up proposals.

16 MPA is glad to have funded 7 start-ups as part of Smart Port Challenge 2017. One such example is the winner of last year’s Smart Port Challenge, Glee Trees, who is working with Singapore Shipping Association (SSA) using RPA which stands for Robotic Process Automation to automate repetitive tasks for two ship agencies. Thanks to the help of the SSA, I think Michael who is the ED of SSA, has been very proactive on this front, working very closely with us to bring on board the shipping industry. So you can see, you have a good idea, you have to process into your good idea through to something that can be secured but you still need a test bed, you still need the relevant agencies to  be involved, you need the industry association, you need the industry players to come onboard. I think you can bring all these elements together through a platform like Pier71, then I think we can make things happen. So that’s one example. Other start-ups in the ecosystem such as Haulio, MyBot, and Brightree have also been active in MPA’s activities and workshops as well as other partners like PSA UnBoXed. We are excited to see the ecosystem diversify and grow as new start-ups find exciting opportunities within the maritime industry. I’m quite sure one year from now I’ll not be able to mention all these things in the same breath because the ecosystem would have grown even bigger. 

17 For Smart Port Challenge 2018, we have thus far garnered the support of 17 co-creators. My colleague, Desmond Tay, will elaborate further in his presentation. Besides running this year’s Smart Port Challenge, PIER71 will also carry out programmes that focus on ramping up technologies and teams under the mentorship of industry partners. This acceleration programme named PIER71 ACCELERATE, to be launched in August later this year, will invite selected finalists from the Smart Port Challenge and start-ups globally to participate. 

Collaboration with Industry Stakeholders and Building up the Maritime Ecosystem

18 Let me say that collaboration will be our way forward. We chose NUS Enterprise as our partner because they have existing ecosystem. We believe that an existing ecosystem is important for us to jump start the whole effort. We don’t intend to reinvent the wheel but to collaborate and to collaborate widely. Earlier this year, PIER71 signed an MOU with PortXL, a Rotterdam based accelerator. Today, we are expanding our efforts and inking an MOU with Danish innovators, Rainmaking, it will be witnessed by the ambassador who is with us today to support venture building activities in Singapore. This collaboration with Pier47 in Denmark will help curated start-ups with market access opportunities in Denmark and elsewhere. NUS Enterprise and China-based INNOSPACE will also be signing an MOU to allow both parties to jointly scout for start-ups in China and Singapore. So there’s also not only a European connection but also an Asian connection and of course, a South East Asian connection. We are also happy to expand on our partnership with Wartsila and Wilhelmsen, I think those who have been following this closely in Posidonia in Greece, Wilhelmsen and Airbus have just signed an MoU to launch the first drone delivery trials in the maritime sector and guess where they will be doing those trials? Right here in our anchorage space in Singapore itself. So a lot of exciting things are happening.  
19 We also welcome maritime players setting up their own accelerator programmes, already mentioned, PSA setting up PSA Unboxed and ONE setting up Symphony Creative Solutions which coincidentally is housed at BLOCK71 near to where we are. So you can see, there is a cluster that will emerge and we welcome other players to come onboard but you better come in fast because the space there is running out from what I hear. And I say this not because I’m prejudiced but because we’re literally looking for space in Block71. Just yesterday, PSA Unboxed also signed an MOU with CMA CGM’s Zebox. 

20 Last but not least, PIER71 will complement the MPA, PSA and Jurong Port Living Labs under the Sea Transport Industry Transformation Map (ITM). Together, they will catalyse collaborations between maritime companies, technology start-ups and adjacent sectors, to prepare Singapore’s maritime industry for the next wave of growth enabled by digitalisation. 

MINT Fund Call for Proposals

21 Before I conclude, I should mention that MPA’s MINT Fund Call For Proposals is now open for submissions. The MINT Fund supports innovative solutions that are not too far off from commercialisation for the maritime industry. We look forward to receiving your proposals and co-funding of innovative solutions.


22 So let me thank Senior Minister of State Dr Lam for gracing this occasion. I recall vividly that you were with us at last year’s smart port challenge and a strong supporter of our efforts and likewise many of our partners here for taking this leap of faith together with MPA. I do not guarantee you of success but I do assure you that with many of us collaborating together we can help reduce and mitigate the risk.

23 To maritime companies who are our co-creators of this year’s Smart Port Challenge – thank you for taking precious time off your busy schedules to attend numerous innovation workshops, behind every smart port challenge, there is a lot of preparatory work that is done in the run up to these workshops to make sure that we get outcomes that we want to achieve. We are also heartened to see other collaborators who will make the maritime industry more relevant, and hope to see similar close partnerships with you.

24 So as we embark on this exciting journey, I look forward to the strong collaboration from everyone and I wish everyone success in their efforts. Thank you very much.