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Opening Remarks by Senior Minister of State for Transport and Foreign Affairs, Mr Chee Hong Tat at the “Make Maritime Your Next Port of Call” Webinar

25 Aug 2020 Speeches

1.     Colleagues and friends, ladies and gentlemen. A very good afternoon to all of you and thank you for joining us at this webinar. 

2.     I am meeting some of you for the first time after taking on the maritime portfolio at the Ministry of Transport recently. I am heartened that even though we are in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, we are still able to have this event, and still able to meet with one another, albeit virtually. 

3.     I would like to share with you this afternoon the outlook for the maritime industry and, importantly because I know we have a lot of students and young people with us, what are some of the job opportunities that the sector can provide. 

Singapore is a Maritime Nation

4.     Singapore is a maritime nation and for centuries, we have been focusing on growing our maritime sector. Singapore’s history, our development and our destiny – these are closely tied to the sea. Today, sea connectivity remains vital to our survival and prosperity. 

5.     While air travel has become more prevalent in the last century, 80% of the world’s goods continue to be transported via the sea. Singapore’s position as a global hub port and international maritime centre allow us to be plugged in and continue to make a good living. 

6.     Many sectors including manufacturing and logistics rely on our port to move components and finished products in and out of Singapore. So we move raw materials and products that are half-completed into Singapore, and after we do the value-adding in Singapore, we export them. This is critical to the competitiveness of our industries – to be able to move goods in and out of Singapore efficiently and freely. The connectivity that our port offers also allows us to be able to anchor new economic sectors and create more good jobs here for Singaporeans. 

7.     One example I can share with you is Hyundai. They have announced their plans to manufacture electric vehicles in Singapore by 2022. This is not because Singapore is a natural place for manufacturing. If you think about it, we don’t have a large domestic market to buy EVs, so obviously the company is not thinking of just selling to customers within Singapore. But they are using Singapore as a hub, as a base after they manufacture in Singapore, to be able to export to the region. This taps on our superior connectivity which is important for both goods to flow in, and for finished products to flow out. The connectivity that we have allows companies like Hyundai to be able to orchestrate supply chain operations, bring in intermediates and also export products with flexibility and agility.

8.     We are going one step further, to leverage the combined strengths of our seaport and airport to offer multi-modal logistics solutions and to be able to seize new opportunities created by the rapid growth of e-commerce. I believe that e-commerce will be a big driver for our region. We see this in many parts of South-East Asia and many parts of Asia. With e-commerce, even though you are placing your orders online, the goods still have to be delivered physically. This will give an extra boost to intra-regional trade. Connectivity and logistics will play increasingly important roles. 

9.     The Government is going to work closely with our industry players and our brothers and sisters from the unions to enhance logistics in Singapore and our connectivity with the region. We do this because we believe this is one of the ways which we can grow the economy for the region, and for countries in the region to then be able to create good jobs for their people, and also to raise the standard of living. For Singapore industries, this is one way which they can remain competitive. 

10.    Beyond the port, our international maritime centre is home to more than 150 international shipping groups, one of the highest concentrations in the world. It provides diverse and good jobs in a wide range of sectors including shipping, ship broking, ship finance, maritime insurance, maritime legal and arbitration, amongst others. 

Maritime Singapore has stayed resilient through the COVID-19 pandemic 

11.    Through the centuries, Singapore has stayed resilient as a maritime nation, and likewise, through the latest COVID-19 pandemic. While COVID-19 has hit many sectors hard, the maritime sector has remained resilient. 

12.    Our container throughput saw a 2% fall from January to July 2020, compared to the same period in 2019. This 2% drop is lower than what we have seen in many other ports. If you compare this to other sectors in the economy, in particular aviation, the maritime sector has so far been quite resilient during this pandemic. We have kept our port open and goods flowing. In fact, we saw some diversion of traffic from other ports to the Port of Singapore. This is one of the ways in which our free and open port continues to provide services to ensure the flow of essential items and maintain global supply chains. This is our way of contributing to helping other countries in the region too, by staying open and connected to the world. 

Maritime Singapore offers many good job opportunities

13.    We will build on this, adapt nimbly to seize new opportunities as global supply chains reorganise and continue to invest in Maritime Singapore to build deep capabilities, so that we can emerge stronger from this crisis. 

14.    To achieve this, talent is key. In the coming months and years, the Ministry of Transport and the Maritime and Port Authority of Singapore will expand the base of Maritime Singapore talent and we need to do this because talent is what we need to power the growth of the industry. 

15.    The maritime sector offers good training opportunities and a diverse range of well-paying jobs that can be taken up by mid-career jobseekers, and also fresh graduates from our universities, polytechnics and the Institutes of Technical Education (ITE).   

16.    Let me share two examples of such opportunities. 

a.     Mr Vijay Dhanabalan graduated from the Singapore Maritime Academy at Singapore Polytechnic. 

b.     At the age of 22, Vijay joined the maritime industry as a Marine Engineer. For the next seven years, he sailed around the world which brought him to many countries. Quite an experience for a young man. 

c.     After doing that for seven years, he returned to shore at age 29, and after obtaining his Certificate of Competency Class 1. As a Senior Technical Superintendent, he now orchestrates the operations of vessels carrying cargo all around the world. 

d.     I hope that more of our adventurous youths will consider a seafaring career like Vijay; it will allow you to see the world and build up deep skills and capabilities. It will also open up opportunities for shore-based jobs subsequently. Not to mention that the pay is also quite attractive.

e.     Not all maritime careers involve going out to sea. Another example I can share with you Ms Aileen Wilopo, a NTU graduate, currently working as a Senior Freight Analyst. 

f.     Aileen gathers and analyses data ranging from macroeconomic indicators to vessel positioning. She does the analysis so that she can make recommendations on freight strategies for her company. Her recommendations are crucial for her company to make sound business decisions and this can involve many millions of dollars. 

g.     Like what Vijay and Aileen, there are many jobs in the maritime sector, both seafaring and non-seafaring, that can be opened up to our youths who are interested to pursue careers in these areas, such as legal, finance and digital technologies. 

17.    While the maritime sector has remained resilient thus far, it is also under pressure during the crisis. I mentioned earlier that cargo volumes have dropped by 2%. When the global economy slows down, it will affect the overall trade volumes and movement of goods. There is a saying that a rising tide will raise all boats. So, similarly, a falling tide will lower all boats.  

18.    But do not fear. Even though in such an environment, companies are cautious and not hiring significantly, we will continue to invest in our people and we will encourage more individuals to go for training under the different SGUnited programmes. 

19.    We are doing this during the crisis because we are confident that the maritime industry will continue to grow after the crisis. We want to retain our competitive position as a hub port and an international maritime centre. So, we need to prepare for the recovery so that when it comes, we will be ready. This period is the time to invest and train our workers, training our young people, getting them ready to operate effectively in the new normal.  

20.    I am very happy to see that the maritime industry sees the benefit of training for the future. 

21.    Many companies such as PSA, Jurong Port, Maersk Singapore, Bernhard Schulte Ship Management and maritime companies under the Kuok Group are participating in this effort and they have offered over 200 traineeship opportunities for a start. 

22.    This is a good start, these 200 traineeship places. But we are not going to stop here. We will continue to work with the industry to create more training and attachment opportunities to grow our maritime talent pool. 

23.    This can include partnering Queen Bee companies to provide training for workers beyond their employees. Queen Bee companies are large companies. They will train not just for their workforce, but also train for other companies in the sector. I used to work on this area when I was with the Ministry of Education looking after SkillsFuture, and this same concept is also applicable to the maritime sector. How do we encourage Queen Bee companies to not only train for themselves, but to train for smaller companies, SMEs in the sector.


24.    Let me conclude my speech by once again, expressing my thanks to the panellists and participants for being with us this afternoon.

25.    And also to express my confidence that the maritime sector will remain resilient, and it will bounce back, and surge even further, and do even better when recovery comes. In order to benefit from the new opportunities, we need to be prepared, and this is the time to start preparing. Investing in our training, investing in our talent development, investing in building capabilities. 

26.    Over the next two days, many maritime companies will be showcasing their job and traineeship opportunities at the Maritime Careers Workshop. I urge all of you to explore these opportunities and join us for an exciting and fulfilling career in maritime.

27.    I wish all of you a fruitful webinar, and make maritime your next port of call! 

28.    Thank you.