30 September 2010

Mrs Lim Hwee Hua,

Mr S.S. Teo,

SSA Council Members,

Ladies and Gentlemen,

A very good evening to all of you. It gives me great pleasure to join you at this Gala Dinner to celebrate the 25th Anniversary of the Singapore Shipping Association.

Encouraging Times for the Shipping Industry

Our maritime industry has grown steadily over the past 25 years. Last year, the shipping community rallied together to overcome rough seas during the global financial crisis. As the global economy is showing signs of recovery, we are cautiously optimistic about the prospects for international shipping. Cargo volumes around the world have picked up. Shipping lines have redeployed once-idle capacity; and freight rates have risen in tandem with renewed market demand. We also see encouraging signs for shipping in Singapore. Vessel arrival tonnage has increased by 8 percent, while bunker sales have risen by 12 percent.

Despite the challenging climate, the Singapore Port has done well. In the first eight months of this year, our container throughput has grown by 13 percent. By now, the story of an Asia-led economic recovery is a familiar one. Many Asian ports like Shanghai are consequently enjoying strong growth. Fuelled by China's burgeoning domestic economy and strong export competitiveness, we will not be surprised if Shanghai overtakes us as the world's busiest container port this year.

Figures from the first eight months of this year already point to this trend. More importantly, as a major international transshipment hub, Singapore stands to benefit from Asia's progress in general and China's growth in particular. I am therefore confident that the Singapore Port will continue to remain the lynchpin for Singapore's development as a leading international maritime centre in the world.

Close Partnership between Government and Industry

Even as the outlook for the shipping industry seems promising, we must remain watchful for developments that can prematurely stifle the fragile economic recovery. How Europe's debt troubles and unemployment in the US will pan out are critical uncertainties. Within the shipping industry, over-supply issues with container ships will be with us for a while.

The continued close cooperation that we have between industry and Government in Singapore will stand us in good stead against any challenge that may come our way. The shipping industry has stood by Singapore in good times and bad, and Singapore has stood by the shipping industry also, in good times and bad. The many initiatives we are introducing, and that the SSA is introducing, will help us ensure that we will enjoy even better times in the future. So I congratulate the Singapore Shipping Association or SSA for its leadership role in Singapore's vibrant maritime sector over the past 25 years; and its constructive engagement with government agencies, especially the Maritime and Port Authority of Singapore (or MPA), to strengthen the maritime cluster. It is these close partnerships and the implicit trust between Government, workers and the industry that marks Singapore as an exceptional place to do business.

Allow me to now touch on some key areas which the Government, with the help of the industry, will continue to play a role in to support our maritime development.

Combating Piracy

First, as mentioned by S.S, piracy remains a concern for the international shipping community. Piracy is a complex trans-national threat that requires close cooperation between international governments. We want to make sure that the cure that is prescribed doesn't make things worse. This is why as a responsible member of the international community; Singapore continues to play an active role to combat piracy in the Gulf of Aden through the multinational Combined Task Force 151 (or CTF151). You would have read that the Singapore Navy commanded CTF151 from January to April this year. The Singapore Armed Forces has also deployed a Task Group to operate under CTF151 since June this year. I visited the SAF Task Group last month. The men and women there are well-trained and wholly committed to their important mission. We will continue to contribute to this international effort with the deployment of a Maritime Patrol Aircraft to CTF 151 from December this year to February next year.

While multinational forces will do their utmost to protect merchant ships in the Gulf of Aden, they cannot do so alone. Shipping companies must also play their part and take precautionary measures to deter potential pirate attacks.

Closer to home, we have established the Regional Co-operation Agreement on Combating Piracy and Armed Robbery against Ships in Asia (ReCAAP). It currently involves 16 countries, including user states like Norway and the Netherlands that joined over the past year. The ReCAAP Information Sharing Centre (ISC) in Singapore works closely with regional law enforcement agencies and the shipping community to ensure that our regional waters remain safe and open to navigation.

Continuing Productivity Growth

Second, it is important for Singapore's maritime industry to continue its efforts to raise productivity. Given our limited resources and an increasingly competitive landscape, productivity growth is an essential ingredient to ensure Singapore's future competitiveness. The maritime industry must look at ways to leverage technology, enhance processes, and invest in training to get more value for companies and workers. The Singapore Government is committed to supporting a productivity-driven maritime industry, as part of our national effort to achieve productivity growth of two to three per cent a year over the next decade.

Cultivating Maritime Talent

Third, just as a ship cannot sail without a competent team of seafarers; our maritime sector needs a core of maritime talent to sustain its long-term growth. Today, Maritime Singapore accounts for about seven per cent of Singapore's GDP and employs more than 150,000 people. I am heartened that our shipping community remains committed to cultivating local maritime talent. MaritimeONE - a joint initiative by the MPA, SSA, Singapore Maritime Foundation (SMF), and the Association of Singapore Marine Industries (ASMI) - has helped to raise public awareness of the maritime industry and attracted more people to take up maritime careers. This is also boosted by the shipping industry's generous contribution of over S$1.8 million to the MaritimeONE scholarship since 2007.

Singapore Maritime Institute

To grow a core of maritime talent, Singapore has to become a leading centre for maritime research, education and training. I am pleased to announce that we will establish a Singapore Maritime Institute (or Singapore MI). The Singapore Maritime Institute will adopt a holistic approach to maritime education. It will drive Research and Development (R&D) in key areas such as green shipping, maritime logistics and operations, as well as marine and offshore engineering. It will also attract renowned academics and researchers to Singapore, and groom the next generation of local maritime talent. The Singapore Maritime Institute will also coordinate the strategic activities of various maritime institutes and centres at our local Institutes of Higher Learning - our universities and polytechnics.

MPA will commit up to S$200 million over the next 10 years to fund the Singapore Maritime Institute. This will be supplemented by further co-funding from the Agency for Science, Technology and Research (A*STAR), and the Economic Development Board (EDB). Together, they will work with the industry, academic institutions and other key stakeholders to define and drive the Singapore Maritime Institute's focus.

I am also pleased to announce that Mr S.S. Teo, President of SSA, and Managing Director of Pacific International Lines (Pte) Ltd, will be the inaugural Chairman of the Singapore Maritime Institute Governing Council. For the Singapore Maritime Institute to succeed, the industry itself has to be committed to the Maritime Institute's activities and programmes. Therefore, with his wealth of experience in the shipping industry, I am confident that the Singapore Maritime Institute will benefit immensely from Mr Teo's stewardship. So, let me take this opportunity to thank Mr Teo for agreeing to lead this important new chapter for Maritime Singapore.

Enhancement to Maritime Cluster Fund

The Singapore Maritime Institute will be complemented by existing schemes such as the Maritime Cluster Fund (MCF). To further support the growth of our maritime talent, MPA has recently introduced three manpower development schemes that leverage on the Maritime Cluster Fund. First, the Training@Maritime Singapore scheme enables companies to tap the MCF to support training programmes to upgrade the knowledge and expertise of their staff. Second, the Talent@Maritime Singapore scheme encourages companies to develop their top talent through career development programmes. Lastly, InvestManpower@Maritime Singapore, helps companies to adopt quality human resource infrastructure such as certification programmes and mid-career conversion courses, so as to attract, train and develop their staff. I encourage our maritime companies to make full use of these schemes to grow a quality workforce for Maritime Singapore.


Combating piracy, continuing productivity growth and cultivating maritime talent are just three facets of how Government and industry can work together. I am certain that the SSA will continue to be a strong supporter of our maritime initiatives for many more years to come. I understand that the SSA has already signed up as a supporting organisation for SeaAsia 2011 to be held in conjunction with Singapore Maritime Week next April. The Singapore Maritime Week has had five successful runs of bringing the international maritime community together for a week of conferences, dialogues, exhibitions and social events. I am confident that next year's event will be even bigger and better.

So, the prospects for the maritime industry are bright. We look forward - the Singapore government - to working with the maritime industry, and to all of you, to make Singapore an even stronger centre for the maritime industry in the future. And, with your strong support this evening for the SSA, with your enormous turnout, I am sure that the SSA will be a strong and useful partner. On this note, let me once again congratulate the SSA for its tireless efforts and commitment to developing Maritime Singapore over the past 25 years. I wish you and your members many more rewarding years ahead.

Thank you and have a good evening.