Amid the current supply chain disruptions, the many challenges facing the maritime industry, the changing strategic landscape, and to better position Singapore competitively in a post-pandemic world, the Singapore government is focusing on four factor – resilience, digitalization, decarbonization, and talent – to sustain the country’s status as a trusted global maritime hub.
During the Singapore Maritime Foundation New Year Conversations event on January 13, attended by Maritime Fairtrade, S Iswaran, Minister for Transport and Minister-in-charge of Trade Relations, said that these four key thrusts “will inform the government’s efforts and work in the maritime sector in the years ahead.”
Iswaran emphasized that Singapore’s vision and aspirations for the maritime sector are underpinned by talent and said that the industry will need an attractive package – of wages, benefits, and perhaps most importantly, career progression – to attract and groom talent with in-demand skills such as operations management, data analytics, and sustainability.
Iswaran said: “To prepare our maritime workforce for these opportunities, we have been working with our tripartite partners to map out business and training needs, and provide co-funding for skills development.
“We have also enhanced our Sea Transport Career Conversion Program to equip mid-career switchers and existing maritime employees to take on new or expanded roles, with competencies in areas such as automation, data analytics, cybersecurity, and decarbonization. We must attract the best talent, local and foreign, to support the maritime sector’s digital and green transformation.
“The difficulties faced by seafarers over the past two years is a stark reminder of the importance of these unsung heroes. We will be re-examining the talent attraction and career development landscape for seafaring together with our industry and union partners, to ensure that it remains a viable career option for those with a spirit of adventure and a love for the sea.”
Iswaran said: “Countries and companies are taking various measures to strengthen supply chains – be it re-shoring, near-shoring, or friend-shoring production, or multi-sourcing and stockpiling supplies. The challenge is to achieve supply chain resilience without impairing efficiency or competitiveness.
“Maritime companies that can offer bespoke or customized cargo solutions to customers at scale with competitive pricing, will be best positioned to capture this opportunity.
“As a key transhipment hub port, we believe we can continue to play an outsized role in securing global supply chains. Just as our current competitive strengths derive from thoughtful investments made over the years, we will continue to invest in automation and digitalization to provide best-in-class terminal handling and marine services to serve our port’s customers.”
According to Iswaran, during the year, the government will progressively roll out new port systems and programs to drive maritime digitalization.
“As a start, I am pleased to announce that MPA has awarded S$3 million to eight industry projects to develop digital bunkering solutions. These projects would leverage data from the mass flow meter systems, new IoT (Internet of Things) devices, and MPA’s Maritime Data Hub to reduce the time taken to complete bunkering documentation such as the bunker delivery note.
“At the ecosystem level, this is estimated to save the industry over 39,000 man-days annually, and help reinforce our reputation as a trusted and efficient bunkering hub.”
To maintain the momentum on efforts to decarbonize, the government had taken advice from the International Advisory Panel on Maritime Decarbonization by setting up the Global Centre for Maritime Decarbonization (GCMD) to spearhead the maritime sector’s energy transition journey.
Iswaran said “In the coming months, MPA will be launching the Maritime Singapore Decarbonization Blueprint 2050, which will outline our plans to mitigate domestic maritime emissions and support global efforts to reduce emissions from international shipping. This includes initiating joint-industry R&D projects in areas such as alternative fuels and energy management, and promoting green financing.”
Maritime industry’s shifting strategic environment
Iswaran also sketched out the key driving forces that are shaping the strategic context of the maritime sector. While presenting challenges, he believed by taking into account these forces while formulating policies can yield opportunities as well.
“First, demographics and economic fundamentals will drive trade and the demand for goods. With the rise of Asia, including China, India and ASEAN, more resources and goods will flow into Asia to meet the growing middle-class demand.
“Second, geopolitical competition along with supply chain disruptions caused by the pandemic, have compelled governments and companies to re-examine the resilience of supply chain strategies. A blend of “just-in-time” and “just-in-case” supply chain models will likely emerge in the coming years, with implications for sailing distances and vessel sizes, as well as increasing demand for more flexible shipping services.
“Third, novel technologies, like artificial intelligence, big data analytics, cloud computing, the Internet of Things, will transform the maritime sector and many others. Automation and robotics will also drive changes in production and supply chains.
“And finally, climate change, which is the defining challenge of our times. Retreating Arctic ice could open new commercial routes between Asia and Europe can divert trade flows away from this region. Meanwhile, there is a mounting call for urgent global action to tackle international shipping’s carbon emissions.”