14 August 2012

Mr. Patrick Phoon, President, Singapore Shipping Association,
Mr. Thomas Tay, General Secretary, Singapore Maritime Officers' Union,
Mr. Kam Soon Huat, General Secretary, Singapore Organisation of Seaman,

and our special guest, Dr. Cleopatra Doumbia-Henry, Director, International Labour Standards Department of the International Labour Organization,

Distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen,
Good Morning.

It is my great pleasure to open this Tripartite Workshop on Implementation of the Maritime Labour Convention, or MLC. With 29 ratifications currently, the MLC is expected to come into force soon. This workshop is certainly timely for our shipping community to further their preparations in meeting the requirements of the MLC. I am heartened to see such a good turnout today from our tripartite partners and stakeholders.

Singapore's commitment to seafarers' welfare

The importance of seafarers to our well-being cannot be understated. Without seafarers, world trade will grind to a standstill and the global economy will be seriously affected. Our standard of living will also without doubt be seriously impacted. Seafarers are not just the backbone of the shipping industry, but of world trade as well.

Singapore recognises the vital role that seafarers play, and the safeguarding of their welfare and interests is a top priority for us. Having one of the largest ship registries in the world means that Singapore is responsible for the well-being of many seafarers. Adopting a tripartite approach, the Maritime and Port Authority of Singapore (or MPA) has worked well with the unions and the shipowners over the years to ensure that the interests of seafarers are looked after.

Even before the advent of the MLC, we established regulations to ensure the welfare of seafarers serving onboard Singapore-flagged vessels. In addition, we also have in place several welfare initiatives that are jointly administered by MPA, the searfarers' unions and the shipping industry. One is the Welfare Committee for Seamen, which looks after the welfare of seafarers who come to Singapore. Another is the Singapore Stranded Seafarers Fund, which aims to aid seafarers in the event that employers fail to fulfil their obligations due to reasons such as bankruptcy. In addition, MPA works with the industry, unions and training institutions to promote and advance seafaring careers.
With full support from our tripartite partners, Singapore became the first Asian country to ratify the MLC in 2011. This further strengthens our commitment to seafarers. MLC is set to become the fourth pillar of the international regulatory regime for quality shipping. It complements the three key conventions of the International Maritime Organization (IMO), namely the International Convention for the Safety of Life at Sea or SOLAS, the International Convention for the Prevention of Pollution from Ships or MARPOL, and the International Convention on Standards of Training, Certification and Watchkeeping for Seafarers or STCW. We are committed to ensuring full compliance with the requirements of the MLC as a responsible flag administration.

Tripartite relations and the MLC

Before ratifying the MLC, we conducted extensive consultations with our tripartite partners from the Ministry of Manpower, seafarers' unions and the shipping industry. Tripartism is one of the key foundations for Singapore's thriving maritime sector and we very much welcome the requirement for tripartite consultation under the MLC. Through such a consultation we can enhance mutual understanding and have better decision making.

As part of our efforts towards the implementation of the MLC, MPA chairs a Tripartite Working Group consisting of government agencies, unions and the shipping industry to chart the way ahead. The Working Group has been diligently carrying out its tasks since 2004. It is now in the final stages of putting in place the legislations and processes to fully implement the MLC. I am pleased to note the good progress that has been made. This has been possible only because of the strong spirit of co-operation among the tripartite partners. I look forward to all of us continuing to work closely together as we prepare for the MLC to come into force and also beyond that even after the MLC comes into force.

Speakers from each of our tripartite partners will elaborate on the specific details of the preparations and measures, and I look forward to hearing from them.


Ladies and gentlemen, seafarers are an essential part of our maritime community and the MLC is an essential convention that protects and promotes the well-being of seafarers. I would like to thank our fellow organisers for bringing together this workshop for our shipping community, and for securing a good field of experts to share their experiences. I would also like to thank Dr. Cleopatra for making time and travelling all the way here to join us and share with us on the MLC.

On that note, I wish everyone a fulfilling time at today's workshop.

Thank you.