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Remarks by Minister for Transport Mr S Iswaran at the MPA 25th Anniversary Completion of Tuas Port Phase 1 Reclamation Event

30 Nov 2021 Speeches

Distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen, 

1.     I am delighted to join you in marking the completion of reclamation works for Tuas Port Phase 1.  Fortuitously, we are also marking the 25th anniversary of the Maritime and Port Authority of Singapore (MPA). So you could say that this event is twice blessed, and we should count our blessings in these tough times.

2.     The completion of Phase 1 reclamation is a significant milestone in our journey towards Tuas. In 2012, the Government made the decision to consolidate the City and Pasir Panjang Terminals container port operations at Tuas Port by the 2040s.This move will meet three key objectives:

i.     First, capacity.  Tuas Port will provide shipping lines with a capacity of 65 million TEUs per year – 50% more than our current capacity. 

ii.    Second, connectivity.  With more ships calling here, Singapore will enjoy even stronger maritime connectivity.  We can harness network effects to import and export more quickly, and at a lower cost.

iii.   Third, commerce.  As a global hub, Tuas Port will bring even more value to companies in our international maritime centre, and create more good jobs for our people.

4.     In total, Tuas Port will occupy 1,337 hectares of land.  That is three-quarters the size of Singapore’s Central Area, or twice the size of Ang Mo Kio town.  There will also be 29 kilometres of wharf structures, with basins and fairways dredged to accommodate mega container vessels.

5.     Given its scale, the Tuas Port project is organised in four phases.  Phase 1 occupies 414 hectares, of which 70% is reclaimed land.  It will have a handling capacity of 20 million TEUs per year.

6.     Construction of Phase 1 began in 2015.  Today, with reclamation completed, PSA can begin to operate the first two berths very soon.  

7.     I would like to thank our project partners and all who have been involved for their hard work and tenacity, especially in the face of adversity, over the past six years of construction.  The project’s main contractor is a joint venture between Dredging International Asia Pacific and Daelim Industrial, with Surbana Jurong providing consultancy services.  Well Done and Congratulations to the entire team.  Great job!

8.     Beyond the hard infrastructure, Tuas Port is fundamentally built on a vision for the Port of Singapore and Maritime Singapore to be resilient, reliable, and ready for the future.  

A resilient global hub port amidst adversity

9.     The COVID-19 pandemic and global supply chain disruption have brought out the resilience of Maritime Singapore. With our tripartite partners working together, we kept our port open and supply chains flowing, while keeping our workers and Singapore safe.

10.    Despite the disruptions and delays, shipping lines relied even more heavily on Singapore.  We have heard about how Singapore has served as a “catch-up port” that helped them make up for lost time. To cope with the demand, PSA worked closely with MPA and the unions to increase its manning by 20%, and reopen eight berths at Keppel Terminal.  PSA has also started to use yard space at Tuas Port to store containers.

11.    Our efforts have been recognised. The Port of Singapore was recently awarded “Best Global Seaport” at the 2021 Asia Freight, Logistics and Supply Chain (AFLAS) Awards for the first time.Our container throughput volumes from January to October this year were 2.1% above the same period in 2020, and 1.3% above the same period in 2019, which was before COVID-19. This means that, barring any unexpected surprises, we are on track for a record high in container throughput this year. This strong performance is testament to the trust that maritime companies place in our port. 

12.    Much of the credit goes to our excellent maritime workforce.  Today, we will be recognising 50 maritime personnel and 5 partner organisations through the MaritimeSG Care Awards, for their unstinting commitment to their work, and inspiring acts of care for their colleagues in this difficult period.  

13.    Mr Shaun Gerald D’Souza, a Chief Engineer with Executive Ship Management Pte Ltd, is one example. When a member of his crew tested positive for COVID-19, and his ship ran out of medical oxygen, he improvised by using industrial oxygen bottles on board. His ingenuity enabled his crewmate to continue receiving oxygen until he could be airlifted for onshore treatment. Even with some crew quarantined, he managed the engine room and pushed the ship’s main engine to almost 100% power amidst gale force winds and 4-metre waves, to reach the rendezvous point for the airlift.

14.    Another example is Ms Michelle Soh, a Crewing Superintendent with Wilhelmsen Ship Management Singapore, who went the extra nautical mile to safeguard the welfare of seafarers.  Almost every day during the pandemic, she kept close contact with them, to listen to their concerns and ensure that they could sign on and off on time.

15.    She also took the initiative to reach out to their families to update them on the well-being of their loved ones. While seafaring is traditionally regarded as a male-dominated profession, she recruited and mentored five female cadets in her fleet. She also organised health and wellness campaigns for shore-based colleagues, and arranged care packages for those separated from their families by travel restrictions.

16.    There are many more recipients who have been shining beacons amidst rough seas.  I want to thank each and every one of you for your contributions, and Congratulations on receiving the Award!

17.    Our Tuas project team has been no less resilient.  They kept the construction of Phase 1 on track despite the challenges of the pandemic, for completion in 2021 as scheduled. This was only possible because of tripartite efforts to minimise infections.  Workers were tested regularly and vaccinated swiftly.  Safe management measures were enforced effectively, and positive cases were isolated quickly.

18.    These efforts kept our workers safe and healthy. Moreover, the use of innovative and sustainable construction methods has also enabled MPA to achieve cost savings of over $1 billion for Phase 1.

A reliable global hub port, trusted by our partners

19.    Our port’s ability to deliver amidst disruptions has reinforced our reputation for reliability.  As the magnitude and frequency of supply chain disruptions increases, we are investing in automation and digitalisation to ensure that we continue to provide the best service to our port’s customers.

20.    This mindset was evident throughout the construction of Phase 1, through the use of cutting-edge automation and robotics. We have heard about how reclamation was made more efficient by using caissons. To lay the caissons’ foundations on the seabed, a single vessel TEMAROCK was used to automate the rock mound construction process, instead of conventional methods that rely on multiple vessels and divers.  TEMAROCK has helped reduce the manpower needed by 80%.

21.    To reinforce caissons with steel bars, an Automatic Rebar Machine System was used to bend and cut the bars automatically.  This system increased productivity by 25%, and helped workers to avoid mechanical hazards and operate more safely.

22.    To protect caisson foundations from erosion caused by vessels berthing and unberthing, lifting gears equipped with robotics and sensors were used to accurately lay concrete panels as an alternative scour protection system.  This innovative method saved the project $60 million. 

23.    To enhance the efficiency of port operations, we are building Tuas Port to be fully automated, and complementing its physical connectivity with digital connectivity. Automated cranes and driverless vehicles will more than double labour productivity at Tuas, compared to our City Terminals.  They will also enable Singaporeans in the port sector to take on skilled jobs with better pay. MPA’s digitalPORT@SGTM will further enhance our port’s digital infrastructure.  It is a one-stop portal for port transactions that now covers all port clearances, and already saves the industry 100,000 man-hours per year.

24.    We will be conducting trials to enable the provision of Just-In-Time services, such as bunkering and repairs. This will further improve the turnaround time of ships. By reducing ship idling time, digitalPORT@SGTM also cuts greenhouse gas emissions from ships.

25.    We are also looking beyond its boundaries of Tuas Port to design the broader ecosystem - to integrate the port with synergistic industries, such as logistics and advanced manufacturing, which use sea freight.  This will facilitate the efficient flow of cargo and avoid long haulage journeys by road.

26.    Through these strategies – automation, digitalisation, ecosystem planning – Tuas Port will stay reliable and trusted by our partners as a major node in the global supply chain, well into the future.

A sustainable global hub port, ready for the future

27.    To be ready for the future, we also must address for the challenge of climate change.  As a global hub port, we in Singapore will do our part. Using transhipment ports like Singapore is the most sustainable way to transport cargo.  By consolidating cargo on larger ships and reducing direct sailings between ports, transhipment cuts emissions from shipping.

28.    PSA aims for Tuas Port to achieve net zero emissions by 2050.  It will achieve this by using electrified equipment and vehicles, smart power management platforms, and green buildings. For example, Tuas Port’s first super low-energy building at Tuas Maintenance Base generates enough solar energy to offset the electricity consumption of the nearby workshops and administration building.  This makes the Base a net zero development. The consolidation of container operations at Tuas by the 2040s will also eliminate inter-terminal haulage and associated emissions.

29.    Phase 1 construction also presented opportunities to innovate and implement sustainable solutions. First, prior to reclamation, MPA worked with environmental groups to relocate coral colonies to St John’s and Sisters’ Islands, to protect them from the impact of the works. Second, the wall surfaces of seven caissons facing the Temasek Fairway were fabricated with cement mortar patches to promote coral growth and marine life.  We hope that this will promote marine biodiversity even as we build Tuas Port. Third, more than 50% of the fill materials for Phase 1 reclamation were either dredged from the creation of the port’s fairways, or excavated from other construction projects on land. This is how we have sought to balance environmental protection with port development.


30.    As Maritime Singapore faces new challenges, such as digitalisation and decarbonisation, I am confident that we will stay resilient, reliable, and ready for the future, like MPA and the Tuas Port project teams.  Ultimately, our competitive advantage is in our people, with their ingenuity, industry, and innovation. Once again, I congratulate MPA on its 25 years of stewardship of Maritime Singapore, and our Tuas Port partners on the completion of Phase 1 reclamation.  

31.    Thank you.