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General Statement by Minister Khaw Boon Wan at The 31st Regular Session of The Assembly of The International Maritime Organization

26 Nov 2019 Speeches

Madam President,


Distinguished delegates, 

1.     Let me first congratulate Armenia and Nauru on becoming IMO members. We look forward to working with you to advance the IMO’s mission.

2.     Since the last Assembly, the world has experienced a volatile and stressful two years. Growing economic inequality. The divisive forces of social media. Rising protectionist sentiments. But we must remember that it is globalisation anchored by multilateral institutions that has enabled the world to progress and prosper. While the stresses of globalisation are real, the open world order and rules-based system have benefited countries and lifted millions out of poverty. We must strengthen domestic policies to help our people cope better with free trade. We must do a better job to convince our people of the benefits.  

3.     It is within this open and rules-based global system that international shipping, under the auspices of the IMO, make global trade possible. Shipping moves more than 80% of global trade. This not only allows people in many countries to enjoy goods from all over the world, it also powers the economy, and helps keep prices and inflation low.

4.     IMO’s global rules are critical to ensure that goods and commodities are safely and efficiently transported, without polluting the oceans and our environment. Who else can ensure a level playing field in the maritime sector?

The Future of Shipping

5.     IMO leadership is especially important at a time when international shipping is trying to cope with the disruptions brought about by digitalisation and decarbonisation.  

6.     For example, while digitalisation creates opportunities and benefits, digitalisation can only reach its full potential when data flows are seamless across borders. Standardisation is key to supporting cross-border data flows. That is why Singapore promotes the concept of the “digitalOCEANS” to allow local digital platforms of ports, shipping and logistic companies to interoperate. This way, we can achieve e-port clearance globally.

7.     Digitalisation has its severe downside: heightened risks of cybersecurity threats. To eliminate this downside, we need global collaboration. Together with other like-minded port authorities, Singapore is promoting a set of Standard Operating Procedures to share information on cybersecurity incidents.

8.     Climate change is another critical global challenge. I laud the IMO and Member States for your commitment to advance sustainable shipping with the adoption of the Initial IMO Strategy. Uncertainties however, remain over the technologies and energy sources to turn strategy into real outcomes. We must press on with more research and development efforts, and frank discussions to reach consensus on the appropriate measures for the global shipping community.  

Conclusion - IMO Leading the Maritime Community Ahead

9.     Digitalisation and decarbonisation are severe disruptive forces. But disruptions are also opportunities and impetus for constructive large scale transformation. Companies need to transform, jobs need to transform and workers too need to transform to stay relevant.

10.    Singapore will work with the IMO and fellow Member States to share ideas, debate strategies and forge consensus. Let’s all rise to the challenge, and together, forge ahead with solidarity, determination and confidence.

11.    Thank you.