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Opening Address by Senior Minister of State for Transport and Foreign Affairs Mr Chee Hong Tat, at Singapore Maritime Institute Forum 2020

22 Oct 2020 Speeches

Her Excellency Ms Anita Nergaard, Ambassador of Norway to Singapore,
 
Mr Wong Weng Sun, Chairman of the Singapore Maritime Institute, 
 
Distinguished guests,
 
Ladies and gentlemen, 
 
Introduction
 
1.     Thank you for having me here today at the SMI Forum.
 
2.     The Forum brings together thought leaders from the industry, academia, and public sector for an exchange of ideas. 
 
3.     This year’s theme “The Future of Port and Shipping” is well-chosen. 
 
a.     The maritime sector is at an inflection point.  We are facing three driving forces that will change the way we work.  They all begin with the letter ‘D’, so we call them the 3 ‘D’s – Disruption, Digitalisation, and Decarbonisation. 
 
b.     To effectively navigate in this new operating environment, Maritime Singapore needs to build on our strong foundations to further strengthen our capabilities; to remain open and connected with the world; and to boldly innovate for the future. 
 
c.     This is how we can push the existing boundaries and stay at the forefront of the Future of Port and Shipping. 
 
d.     This is how we can support the growth of our hub port and international maritime centre, and create a strong industry eco-system in Singapore.  
 
e.     And this is how we can create more jobs and opportunities for Singaporeans.  
 
Disruption, Digitalisation, Decarbonisation
 
4.     Let me briefly touch on the three ‘D’s that we need to tackle. 
 
a.     First, disruption. COVID-19 has been a major disruption for the world, reshuffling the deck of cards in many sectors and changing our way of life.  Thankfully, our maritime sector has remained resilient when confronted with these waves of change.  In Singapore, we have kept our port open and supported the continuity of global supply chains.  As supply chains shift and become more complex, due to COVID-19 and other global developments, we must be ready to adapt and remain relevant.
 
b.     Second, digitalisation is fundamentally changing business models and processes across different sectors, bringing about new challenges but also new opportunities.  In the maritime sector, digitalisation will be a game-changer for companies to enhance their productivity and differentiate themselves from the competition.  It also opens up new opportunities for greater synergies and win-win collaborations with other industries such as logistics and manufacturing.
 
c.     Third, decarbonisation will change the face of maritime – from the type of marine fuel we use, to the design of vessels, and how port infrastructure and operations are organised.  As the world’s largest transhipment hub and a major maritime centre, Singapore will do our part in the fight against climate change by supporting the IMO’s emissions targets.  We do not believe that being a place that is “business friendly” is at odds with being “environmentally friendly”.  We can be both pro-business and pro-environment at the same time by pursuing sustainable development and green growth strategies.   
 
Encouraging innovation and experimentation 
 
5.     Maritime Singapore must turn each of these three ‘D’s from challenges to advantages.  One way to achieve this goal is to encourage innovation and experimentation.
 
a.     Planning the Future of Port and Shipping is like sailing into uncharted waters.  We can never be sure that new ideas and business plans will take off, and sometimes we could be trying for many years and months without knowing whether success will be achieved at the end of the journey.  
 
b.     So like the early pioneers who sailed out into the open seas without knowing whether they will discover new lands, we must be prepared to venture out of our comfort zones and take calculated risks, and accept some failure along the way.  If we have zero tolerance for failure, we will have zero scope for innovation.  
 
6.     Today, I am happy to launch two initiatives which will help build Port Digital Twins, developed by the Centre of Excellence in Modelling and Simulation for Next Generation Ports (C4NGP).
 
a.     One main haul ship that arrives at Singapore will typically transfer its containers to 100 other ships, and take on containers from another 200 ships.  These add up to a complex network with 20,000 connections. Hub ports like Singapore require sophisticated systems to plan for the movement, berthing, loading and unloading of vessels, at a massive scale. 
 
b.     One key hurdle to testing new ideas to improve such interconnected systems is the worry that any adjustment may disrupt core operations and cause delays to customers. 
 
c.     To address this, C4NGP has created new tools to build Port Digital Twins.  Just as our seafarers train on simulators to be ready for different situations at sea, a Digital Twin is like a simulator for port authorities and operators to experiment with different operating concepts and designs.  We can test out different scenarios, and try new solutions on these virtual twins of our port, without worrying about the downside risks.  This will enable port operators to optimise their operations, and allow shipping companies to better manage vessel capacity and cargo flow.  
 
d.     It is not easy to build such customised computer models to accurately simulate port layouts and equipment.  To facilitate this, C4NGP is publishing a set of universal mark-up programming language standards, called PortML.  C4NGP is also releasing the SINGAPort Studio – a software suite that uses PortML to design, configure, and build Port Digital Twins.  These initiatives, taken together, will accelerate efforts to build Port Digital Twins, not just in Singapore but also around the world.  
 
7.     By establishing a common modelling language and software suite, innovations developed for different ports can be inter-operable, to support international collaborations and maritime operations around the world.   
 
a.     We welcome global partners to join us in adopting PortML, and using SINGAPort Studio to build Digital Twins and deploy solutions that are useful to the industry.  I am happy to know that 12 partners from Europe, China, Japan, and Korea have shown interest so far, and I hope more may join in later.
 
8.     The concept of a Digital Twin is not “fail-safe” as it does not guarantee success.  That will still depend on the quality of the ideas and proposals that we can come up with.  But it allows these ideas and proposals to be tested and verified in a “safe-fail” environment.  This shift from pursuing “fail-safe” to enabling “safe-fail” is an important enabler to encourage innovation and experimentation.  
 
a.     I hope that these developments will inspire generations of regulators and maritime professionals to collaborate closely and innovate boldly as we build the Future of Port and Shipping together.
 
Developing skills for our people
 
9.     Our maritime sector is not only resilient; during this pandemic, it is growing from strength to strength.  This is the challenge we have set for ourselves – for myself, my colleagues, for the industry, for our unions, our tripartite partners – how to grow Maritime Singapore and create more good jobs for Singaporeans.  
 
10.    Besides creating new jobs, we must also help our people to develop the skills to take on these jobs.  I am a firm believer in the importance of skills upgrading and lifelong learning, having had the opportunity to work with colleagues and industry partners to develop the Next Bound of SkillsFuture during my stint at MOE.
 
a.     In August, I announced that the maritime sector could provide over 200 traineeships and attachments for recent graduates and mid-career individuals to develop industry-relevant skills and gain experience under the various SGUnited Programmes.
 
b.     The first batches of trainees have already taken up their roles.  Among them is Mr Luqmanul bin Yusof, who prefers to go by “Hakeem”.
 
i.     Hakeem’s interest in the maritime sector started at a young age, when relatives told him stories of their adventures at sea. 
 
ii.    Hakeem took up a traineeship as a technical assistant at Bernhard Schulte Ship Management, supporting the procurement and certification of vessels. 
 
iii.   I am glad to know that Hakeem sees his work as “challenging and interesting”, and that he has found his calling to pursue a career in maritime after his traineeship. I am very happy to know that.
 
c.     The maritime sector is not just for young people like Hakeem. It is an inclusive industry that welcomes people from different backgrounds and age groups.  
 
i.     Mr Francis Chew who is 67 years old recently started on the SGUnited Skills Maritime Business Management programme at Singapore Polytechnic. 
 
ii.    He is keen to pick up new skills and contribute to the maritime industry, after spending more than 40 years in F&B, most recently in senior management and mentorship roles.  
 
iii.   I wish Francis all the best in his training programme and hope that the new skills will enable him to make a successful transition into the maritime sector.  
 
11.    We want to do more to bring in Singaporeans like Hakeem and Francis, and to grow the capabilities of many more who are already part of Maritime Singapore. 
 
a.     Today, I am happy to announce that the public sector, our institutes of higher learning and our industry partners will provide up to 1,000 training, company attachment and traineeship opportunities across the maritime sector under the SGUnited Jobs and Skills Initiative.  This is an additional 800 places from the 200 that we announced two months ago.  They will be in areas such as automation systems, digital transformation, shipping operations and maritime superintendency.  These are in-demand skills in the industry, and can also benefit the trainees if they subsequently join other sectors. These are transferrable skills – even if they don’t join the maritime sector, these skills will be useful to them.
 
b.     These opportunities will be progressively launched in the coming months.  I thank everyone for working hard and working together to achieve this outcome.  
 
c.     If, like Hakeem and Francis, you are excited by what the future holds for the maritime industry, do check out the opportunities available and make maritime your next port of call!
 
Collaborating with our partners
 
12.    Ladies and gentlemen, as we move towards the Future of Port and Shipping, collaboration is a critical success factor.  We could not have achieved these additional 800 openings if not for the strong collaboration we have in our ecosystem, between public sector agencies, our industry partners, our institutes of higher learning.  It is this partnership that has enabled us to move fast, and to do more together.
 
a.     In conversations about dealing with the economic challenges posed by COVID-19, we often assure our companies and workers that the Government will walk this journey with them. 
 
b.     But since we are from the maritime sector, I will phrase it a little differently and say to you that “the Government will sail this journey with you”.  We are in the same boat, and whether the seas are smooth or rough, we will sail this journey as one and we will get to our destination together!
 
c.     The Government will provide a supportive regulatory environment that is pro-business and pro-innovation.    
 
d.     Institutes of higher learning and researchers provide the knowledge and expertise to meet industry needs.
 
e.     Businesses provide the commercial opportunities, and invest in solutions to tackle practical problems faced by your customers, and bring new ideas from concept to reality.
 
f.     And when we succeed in attaining sustainable growth, we can also achieve other important outcomes like creating good jobs for our workers and putting in place industry practices that protect the environment.
 
13.    Across national borders, we must also deepen collaborations to learn from one another.  We will be witnessing two good examples today. 
 
a.     First, we will launch the Roadmap for Smart and Autonomous Maritime Transport Systems, a joint project by the Technology Centre for Offshore and Marine Singapore and SINTEF Ocean of Norway.
 
b.     Next, we are renewing an MOU with the American Bureau of Shipping (ABS), one of the world’s largest classification societies.  ABS will set up a new centre of excellence in Singapore, and also provide training opportunities for our maritime workforce. 
 
Conclusion
 
14.    As this Forum shows, SMI is a key node in bringing different stakeholders together.
 
a.     I would like to thank Mr Wong Weng Sun, President and CEO Sembcorp Marine, for chairing the SMI board and governing council since 2017. 
 
i.     Under Weng Sun’s able leadership, SMI developed the Maritime R&D Roadmap, and established four Centres of Excellence, including C4NGP. 
 
ii.    We have asked Weng Sun to continue his chairmanship for another two-year term, and I am grateful that he has agreed to do so.  
 
iii.   Thank you, Weng Sun!  We look forward to continue working closely with you and your team.  
 
b.     Together, we will ride the waves of change and grow Maritime Singapore from strength to strength.  
 
c.     Together, we will innovate and build capabilities, and turn our challenges into opportunities.
 
d.     And together, we will create a better future for our industry, for the environment and for our people.   
 
e.     Thank you