OPENING ADDRESS BY MS QUAH LEY HOON, CHIEF EXECUTIVE, MARITIME AND PORT AUTHORITY OF SINGAPORE, AT THE SINGAPORE REGISTRY OF SHIPS (SRS) FORUM 2020 VIA ZOOM WEBINAR ON 3 NOVEMBER 2020, 03:00 PM

03 November 2020

Distinguished Guests,
Ladies and Gentlemen,

1     Good afternoon. A warm welcome to the Singapore Registry of Ships Forum 2020, or SRS Forum 2020 in short. Unlike previous years when we can gather in person, we have to be creative this year due to COVID-19 and hold our first ever forum in virtual format. We hope that through this Forum, our SRS partners can continue to network and share best practices with one another.

2     First of all, on behalf of my team in MPA, I would like to thank you for your strong support in making the Singapore flag your flag of choice. I am happy to share that this year, in 2020, the SRS has crossed the 96 million GT milestone, enabling Singapore to once again maintain our position in the top five ship registries in the world.

3     Singapore-registered ships have also continued to perform well under the various Port State Control regimes. We ranked high in both the Tokyo and Paris MOU white lists, and these are testaments to the quality and reliability of ships in the SRS. Mr Cheah Aun Aun, our Deputy Director of Shipping, will be sharing more during the SRS Performance Report segment later.

4     The theme for this year’s forum is “Resilience, Strength and Adaptability”. The COVID-19 pandemic has thrown us many challenges, but it also presented us with opportunities to emerge stronger. I will touch on three points on how we plan to work with you to fight this pandemic and shift gear towards the new normal.
  1. Build resilience to support our seafarers through the pandemic;
  2. Strengthen partnerships to drive decarbonisation and digitalisation in shipping; and
  3. Keep the SRS adaptable, agile and competitive in the New Normal.

Resilience – supporting our seafarers

5     First, the maritime sector including the Port of Singapore has remained resilient even with COVID-19. Our container throughput registered a 3.7% growth in September this year compared to the same month last year. Our bunkering volumes is also 5.6% higher from January to September this year, compared to the same period last year.

6     On resilience, I would like to raise more specifically our seafarers. They are the backbone of the maritime industry. They keep international trade going.

7     Singapore has been facilitating crew change for all nationalities from ships of different flags during the pandemic through a ‘safe corridor’. This “safe corridor” keeps our seafarers safe; it keeps our public safe.

8     I am pleased to announce that we have crossed the 50,000 mark of crew changes facilitated in Singapore since 27 March. Let me share more statistics here:

9     To be exact, the Port of Singapore has facilitated 50,821 crew;

  1. These crew come from more than 2,900 companies;
  2. They have gone on more than 3,500 ships;
  3. On average, we are conducting some 500 to 600 sign-ons or sign-offs per day;
  4. I am even more pleased to announce to you that, for SRS ships, 99% of crew onboard are within their service contract period. I know that my team is working closely with our ship operators to repatriate the remaining 1%.

10    I wish to take this opportunity to thank the companies that have conducted crew changes successfully in Singapore. Thank you for working with us to facilitate crew change in a safe and responsible manner.

11    In recognition of their significant contributions to Singapore’s crew change efforts, MPA will be presenting several companies with the Crew Change Champion awards later. They have gone the extra mile to support us in this crew change journey. We will be recognising 3 key groups:
  1. ship agents who have cooperated effectively with MPA and showed dedication and professionalism;
  2. ship owners which have proactively worked with MPA to enhance their own crew change protocols and processes; and
  3. organisations which have contributed to coordinating crew change efforts in the Port of Singapore as part of the Singapore Crew Change Workgroup.

12    The fight against the pandemic is still on! We continue to urge ship owners, operators and agents to continue to remain vigilant and adhere strictly to the established crew change procedures. There are also best practises such as using dedicated facilities in the crews’ home countries to carry out pre-departure isolation. We encourage more companies to do so.

13    I would also like to commend at this point the hard work that our tripartite partners (industry and unions) have put in, to constantly review our procedures and come up with creative ideas to enhance the crew change process. These include:
  1. Publishing the Singapore Crew Change Guidebook to detail crew change procedures under the ‘safe corridor’;
  2. Chartering flights for countries which have suspended scheduled international passenger flights;
  3. Re-purposing floating accommodations into a dedicated Crew Facilitation Centre for crew change;
  4. Extending financial support for Singaporean seafarers under the Seafarers Relief Package; and
  5. Establishing the Singapore Shipping Tripartite Alliance Resilience Fund (SG-STAR Fund). SG-STAR Fund is a global fund set up within two days of ideation to announcement, and international industry associations such as IMEC, ITF and ICS have come onboard to work on measure upstream in seafaring countries.

Strength – building strong partnerships

14    Let me now talk about the strength forged by building strong partnership. The SG-STAR Fund is one concrete initiative that results from this strong partnership. We must continue to build strong partnerships in the areas of decarbonisation and digitalisation.

15    On decarbonisation, MPA and our partners are funding the research, test-bedding, and adoption of low-carbon technologies through the S$40 million Maritime GreenFuture Fund. MPA also recently launched the joint Call for Proposals with the Singapore Maritime Institute (SMI) to support the development in electrification of harbour craft. Together with SMI, we are studying the use of biofuels in harbourcraft. I would like to encourage SRS companies operating harbour craft to work with like-minded technology developers to support trials for future fuels.

16    At a national level, we are extending our memorandum of understanding (MOU) with Global Compact Network Singapore by an additional three years to 2023. Together with SSA and GCNS, we will promote carbon management and awareness amongst maritime companies. We have also launched NextGen with IMO to come up with platforms for organisations to share ideas so that they can snowball into commercially viable solutions for ocean-going vessels.

17    Next on Digitalisation. Singapore is actively driving maritime digitalisation to streamline operations and improve efficiency. MPA and China’s Maritime Safety Administration have started live trials to exchange electronic certificates to streamline port clearance. MPA has also signed a MOU with the Port of Rotterdam, PSA International, TradeLens, GeTS, and CargoSmart, to develop and adopt common data standards and Application Programming Interface specifications, which will facilitate data exchange for port and maritime services transactions. This partnership will drive the digitalOCEANSTM initiative, Singapore’s vision of a global inter-operable network that will connect ships, ports, governments and other trade platforms for the seamless flow of data across borders.

18    We are not leaving anyone behind in this digitalisation push. MPA, together with the Singapore Shipping Association and Infocomm Media Development Authority, has developed the Maritime Digitalisation Playbook to help companies reap the benefits of digital transformation. I would like to strongly encourage our SRS companies to use the playbook to design your digitalisation roadmap and drive your digitalisation efforts.

Adaptability – maintaining the competitiveness of the SRS

19    I have spoken on Resilience and Strength. Now, I will touch on the third prong of adaptability. COVID-19 has shown that it is crucial for the SRS to pivot, to become more agile and adaptable. During this pandemic, both our MPA Flag State Control and Seafarers Management personnel takes a pragmatic approach to ships facing difficulties in meeting statutory requirements. We have extended statutory surveys and certifications, and the service period of seafarers onboard SRS ships.

20    To minimise exposure between our surveyors and ship crew, MPA is using technology to carry out remote Flag State and Port State Control inspections. Since June, we have carried out 128 remote inspections covering 74 companies. In addition, we have also collaborated with our Recognised Organisations to conduct surveys and audits using remote techniques. My colleague from the Flag State Control department and Bureau Veritas will be sharing more later.

21    We have also transitioned from Certificate of Competency (CoC) oral examinations being conducted face-to-face to video conferencing to reduce the risk for both the examiners and candidates. Since April, we have conducted close to 250 oral examinations for CoC deck and engine candidates through video conferencing.

22    In the coming year, the SRS will undergo a strategic review to serve you better. In the meantime, we welcome your feedback and are committed to working closely with you as always.

Closing

23    In closing, I would like to recognise several companies that have flown the Singapore Flag high. Heartiest congratulations to Schulte Group for helping us cross the 96th million GT milestone. We will be presenting you with the SRS Milestone Award later. In addition, we are pleased to see the continuing strong industry support for clean and green shipping in Singapore. We will be recognising companies that have contributed to the sustainability effort by participating in the Green Ship Programme.

24   COVID-19 is not going away anytime soon. As we navigate through these unprecedented times, let us continue to display resilience, strength and adaptability as one Maritime Singapore. As the saying goes, when the going gets tough, the tough gets going – with your continued support, we know that we are in good company. Together, we can co-create more win-win solutions, and turn this crisis into opportunities.

25    Thank you and I wish you all a fruitful session today.