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Speech by Senior Minister of State Dr Lam Pin Min at World Hydrography Day 2019

28 Jun 2019 Speeches

Ladies and gentlemen,
Hydrographers,

1.     I am honoured to join you in celebrating World Hydrography Day at this historical location.

History

2.     Singapore’s port is over 700 years old. Our rich history dates back to the early 14th century when Singapore was establishing itself as a free trade port. Today, we have grown into a global hub port, the largest transhipment port in the world. But this would not have been possible without hydrographers and the work they do. Our hydrographers connected the dots, using charts to map out the waters in and around Singapore, so that ships could navigate to our shores safely.

3.     Where we are at now, the Fort Canning Hill, is where the ‘Time Ball’ once served as a navigational aid for mariners in Singapore’s harbour. The time ball was raised at 12.55pm and dropped at exactly 1pm daily to help mariners set their chronometers in order to determine their longitude at sea.

4.     The Fort Canning Flagstaff and Lighthouse, one of our first lighthouses in Singapore -– was built in 1903. The hill was an ideal location. It had sufficient elevation, and provided an expansive view of the harbour. Today, when we stand on Fort Canning, we cannot even see the ocean. A testament to our development and growth over the past 200 years!

Hydrographic Information enables a Global Hub Port

5.     Just like in the past, navigational charts and aids to navigation such as lighthouses remain critical for ships to enter and leave our port safely. Our port waters are extremely busy and will only get busier. Not only that, Singapore also plays an important role in ensuring safe navigation along parts of the Straits of Malacca and Singapore, one of the busiest shipping lanes in the world. So it is even more important today that MPA is able to update and maintain all aids to navigation, and to pass on this information to mariners in a quick and timely manner.

6.     Hence, a day in the life of a hydrographer is never dull. Our hydrographers work tirelessly to collect data of sea depth, shape of the sea bed, tides and currents. They process the data, synthesise the information and present it in a useful way on navigational charts. Unlike hydrographers of days past, our hydrographers today use high-tech gadgets such as multi-beam sonar and a sound velocity probe which measures the speed of sound to determine the water depth.

7.     From paper charts to electronic navigational charts to three-dimensional bathymetry data1, MPA has also been keeping up with the times, going digital and upgrading its hydrographic capabilities.

8.     I am proud of the work done by the men and women of MPA’s hydrographic team over the years. They have flown the Singapore flag high.

GeoSpace-Sea Will Drive Marine Knowledge

9.     But our port waters are not just for ships. It is a scarce resource shared by many, for recreation, aquaculture, submarine pipelines, desalination intakes. We plan the short-, medium- and long-term uses of our land supply. And we should do the same for our sea space. This will ensure that our marine and coastal resources are used in a sustainable manner.

10.    Hence, our agencies have been working hard to transform the way we look at and use data and information on our sea space. Spearheaded by MPA, in collaboration with 11 other agencies and the Tropical Marine Science Institute at NUS, the national Marine Spatial Data Infrastructure, or ‘GeoSpace-Sea’, will harness the latest Geographic Information System technologies to integrate marine and coastal data from various sources, bridging the information gap between land and sea. MPA will award the tender to develop the GeoSpace-Sea system next month.

11.    The marine knowledge generated from this initiative will serve us well on many fronts – in marine and coastal spatial planning, marine science R&D, marine conservation, climate change adaptation, and disaster response.

12.    GeoSpace-Sea is an exciting and timely national endeavour. I urge you to partner us in this initiative, whether it is in data contribution, collection, analytics or the development of use cases. I am confident that our high-quality hydrographic data will continue to support safe navigation, and when integrated with other data will allow us to derive marine knowledge for further applications.

13.    To all our hydrographers here in Singapore and abroad, thank you for your invaluable service. I wish you all a happy World Hydrography Day. Thank you.