Back to top

Opening Remarks by Senior Minister of State Dr Lam Pin Min at The Singapore Maritime Foundation (SMF) New Year Cocktail Reception 2020

13 Jan 2020 Speeches

Mr Andreas Sohmen-Pao,
Chairman of Singapore Maritime Foundation,

Distinguished guests,


1. Good evening. I am happy to be here to extend my New Year greetings to all.

A Resilient Maritime Singapore despite Challenging Conditions

2.     2019 was a challenging year. Global economic activity was weak, with global growth at about 3%. While overall freight rates improved in 2019, global container throughput growth has generally slowed. The US-China trade war was a major source of uncertainty, dragging down sentiments across markets.

3.     The maritime industry also faced uncertainty in 2019. For most parts of last year, shipping companies did not know for sure whether compliant fuels would be available in sufficient quantities and at a quality required to meet the IMO 2020 0.5% global sulphur cap regulation that came into force at the start of the year. The price differential between compliant fuels and high sulphur fuel oil was an issue of much speculation.

4.     Maritime Singapore provided much needed certainty and stability in these uncertain times. Singapore’s container throughput grew to 37.2 million TEUs in 2019 from 36.6 million TEUs in 2018, an increase of 1.6%. Our port also handled more than 626 million tonnes in cargo. Vessel arrival tonnage increased by 2.2% to 2.85 billion gross tonnes.

5.     As part of our preparations for IMO 2020, we made clear very early on that we would be ready to supply compliant fuels to ships calling at our port. We laid down our regulations. And most critically, we provided advice to ships that had planned to call at the Port of Singapore come 1 January 2020.

6.     It is this transparency, consistency in policy, and pro-business environment that makes Maritime Singapore attractive for leading maritime players to anchor their presence here.

a.     Last year, we welcomed new players such as OneBulk, a joint venture between three established German shipping companies – Bertling, Oskar Wehr and Nordic Hamburg. The joint venture provides commercial management for ocean-going bulk carriers. OneBulk decided to site its new venture here as it was convinced by Singapore’s value proposition and track record in the shipping industry.

b.     Singapore Marine is another example. This newly established dry bulk freight operator decided to site their Asian shipping operations in Singapore to capitalise on our comprehensive maritime ecosystem.

7.     Other maritime companies expanded their operations. Britannia P&I – one of the 13 International Group Protection & Indemnity Clubs – established its Singapore branch last year. Since then, the Singapore Branch has expanded its offerings to loss prevention services, and now offers a full suite of P&I services to its members in the Asia-Pacific region.

Partnership is Key to Maritime Singapore’s Success

8.     We have achieved many new successes together in 2019.

9.     On the connectivity front, we launched the Sea Transport Industry Digital Plan for the ship agency and harbourcraft sectors. The plan will help SMEs in these sectors enhance service levels, and create new value-add by adopting digital solutions. It will also help prepare the industry’s workforce with the necessary skills to adopt digital solutions. We also launched the first phase of digitalPort@SG TM . Several companies present here played a significant role in its launch by providing valuable feedback during the pilot last year. digitalPort@SG TM is now able to provide all ships calling at the Port of Singapore with one-stop port clearance. This simplifies a process that would otherwise require ships to make separate applications with three different Singapore public agencies for port clearance. This has saved shipping lines valuable time and reduced their costs.

10.    On the innovation front, together, we are building a vibrant and thriving innovation ecosystem that is vital to the maritime industry. MPA launched the Maritime Innovation Lab with 18 participating organisations as a test-bed to develop cutting-edge capabilities and solutions. One of these projects is IntelliTug, a collaboration between Wartsila, PSA Marine and the Technology Centre for Offshore and Marine Singapore (TCOMS), focusing on developing autonomous tugboats to increase productivity and navigational safety in the port.

11.    On the talent front, we awarded 43 MaritimeONE and 17 Tripartite Maritime Scholarships to nurture the next generation of maritime talent. We also gave a total of 47 awards in 2019 under the MPA Global Internship Awards programme. The programme provides high-achieving students with an opportunity to experience the global nature of shipping by interning at maritime companies in Singapore and abroad. Now in its sixth run, the number of recipients last year was double of what we awarded during the pilot run of the programme in 2013 and 2014! We also saw more interest from maritime companies to take in students from non-maritime courses under this programme.

12.    To better prepare our seafarers for disruptive technologies, we established the Industry Collaboration Training Committee for the Seafaring Sector. The work of the committee will complement the Sea Transport Industry Transformation Map.

13.    Such close partnership is the secret ingredient to Maritime Singapore’s success. Together, we have received numerous accolades last year. Singapore was named the top maritime capital in Menon’s Leading Maritime Capitals of the World report 2019 for the fourth consecutive time. We also emerged top in the Xinhua-Baltic International Shipping Centre Development Index for the sixth consecutive year. The Port of Singapore was awarded Best Seaport in Asia for the 31 st time at the 2019 Asia Freight Logistics and Supply Chain Awards (AFLAS)!

14.    On this note, let me take the opportunity to thank Andreas for his contributions to the Singapore Maritime Foundation (SMF) and Maritime Singapore. Andreas has been a strong advocate for Maritime Singapore and a valued partner of MPA. Under his leadership, SMF raised the stature and profile of Maritime Singapore internationally by co-organising Sea Asia and participating in major overseas events such as Posidonia and Nor-Shipping. Andreas is also passionate about developing the next generation of talent for Maritime Singapore. SMF took the lead in 2016 to set up the Maritime Singapore Connect Office to raise awareness of rewarding maritime career opportunities. For his contributions, Andreas was awarded the Public Service Transformation Star Partner Award last year.

15.    When I first took on the maritime portfolio, Andreas was most generous in sharing his knowledge of the industry with me. Hence, I am glad that Andreas has kindly agreed to chair SMF for another two years. I look forward to his continued leadership of SMF.


16.    To conclude, Maritime Singapore’s continued success depends on our collective leadership and commitment. I am confident that this partnership between the Government, industry and unions will set Maritime Singapore apart from other maritime capitals. Together, we can realise the full potential of Maritime Singapore.

17.    I thank the SMF for organising this event and wish you a wonderful evening ahead.