Singapore’s ability for industry and government to pull together and move in the same direction is a unique strength, says senior minister of state for transport and health Dr Lam Pin Min
2018 was a year of uncertainty. Global trade tensions intensified, and there was little sign that the China-US trade war would abate. Global trade volume suffered. Growth is expected to be about 3.9%, below the World Trade Organisation’s earlier projection of 4.4%.
Thankfully, Maritime Singapore fared not too badly. Our container throughput increased by 8.7% to 36.6M TEU. Our port also handled 630M tonnes of cargo.
We continued to attract top maritime players to use Singapore as a node to connect globally. For example, the Thenamaris Group, a global ship management company based in Greece, incorporated its commercial ship management office in Singapore. The World Shipping Council also announced setting up its Asia office here.
Companies already in Singapore further entrenched their operations here. For example, China COSCO expanded its logistics business after taking over Cogent Logistics. The joint venture between COSCO Shipping Ports Limited and PSA also increased the number of berths from three to five. Just last month, CMA CGM announced APL’s plan to acquire CNC and consolidate CNC’s intra-Asia business into Singapore.
We should not take these developments for granted. They did not happen by chance. For Maritime Singapore to continue to grow, we have to continue to stay competitive. That is why I launched the Sea Transport Industry Transformation Map at this event a year ago. We have since made good progress.
First, we have grown the breadth of our maritime services. We are making some progress to establish Singapore as a key financing node in Asia. More than 20 major banks in Singapore offer ship financing, and we are working to make available more sources of financing. We are also making headway in developing marine insurance. Singapore is now host to a wide spectrum of companies in the marine insurance value chain, including nine out of the 13 International Group P&I Clubs, Lloyd’s service companies, insurance brokers, legal services and so on.
Second, we made a strong push into technology and to foster innovation. Last year, PIER71 hosted the 2nd Smart Port Challenge, where start-ups came up with innovative ideas to tackle real-life problems identified by the industry. More than 120 proposals were submitted. I hope that through the process, the start-ups will be able to find industry partners and test-bed their products.
There have been a few successful cases. For example, Kanlian Ferry, a home-grown ferry operator, had been recording maintenance information of their fleet on paper. Now, with the Launch Management System developed by local start-up MyBot, the engineering team can access maintenance records and history online, anytime and anywhere. This helps them improve the way they analyse faults and track maintenance efficiency. A simple innovation, but significant improvement.
Last but not least, we continue to invest in our workforce, who are the ones who make things work, and who implement improvements and innovations.
We also promoted greater awareness of maritime careers, and connected employers and jobseekers. In this regard, the Maritime Singapore Connect Office, or the MSC Office has done a great job. MSC’s annual Maritime Careers Workshop and career portal have benefited many companies and jobseekers, including those who are new to the industry.
As we look forward to 2019, which is the bicentennial of the founding of modern Singapore, let us remember how we have come this far and reflect on the lessons and wisdom from our forefathers. One key ingredient has been our ability to forge strong partnerships between industry and the government. This ability to pull together our resources, networks, and know-how, to move in the same direction, is a unique strength we have, and something we should work hard to preserve.
This is an abridged reproduction of a speech given by Dr Lam at the Singapore Maritime Foundation New Year Cocktail Reception in January 2019. The full version is available on the MPA website.