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Opening Remarks by Senior Minister of State for Transport and Health Dr Lam Pin Min at “Accelerating Digitalisation, Building Resilience” Webinar

19 Jun 2020 Speeches

Distinguished guests and colleagues,

Introduction

1.     A warm welcome and thank you for joining us for today’s webinar on “Accelerating Digitalisation, Building Resilience”.

2.     The COVID-19 pandemic has brought unprecedented disruption to our global supply chains, our businesses, and our lives. In this time of crisis, Maritime Singapore is committed and continues to keep global supply chains intact, and trade and goods flowing. We ensure that essential supplies such as food and medical equipment are delivered to those who need them, not just in Singapore, but all over the globe. Keeping trade flows going remains critical for Singapore’s economy, Singaporeans’ well-being, and for the recovery of global trade.

3.     Here, I would like to thank our maritime companies, frontline maritime workers and seafarers for making this possible. Once again, the maritime community has shown its resilience and ability to respond robustly in adversity. State of Maritime Digitalisation

4.     Many countries have implemented lockdowns of different degrees. Companies and workers had to quickly adapt to remote working. McKinsey reported, based on recent data, that business digital adoption that would have taken 5 years pre-COVID, has taken place in eight weeks due to restrictions arising from COVID.1 I am heartened to see maritime companies seizing this opportunity to explore new models of work such as conducting remote surveys via teleconferencing tools or digitalising maritime and trade documentation that were previously only available as hardcopy documents.

5.     Maritime Singapore has started our digitalisation journey even before this crisis. MPA has been supporting various industry and enterprise digitalisation efforts over the years. Some of you may recall that I spoke about the Digitalisation Acceleration Index, otherwise known as the DAI survey, in my speech at the SSA Gala Dinner last year. The DAI survey measures the digital maturity of companies and its findings can help maritime companies identify digital priorities to implement and increase productivity. The survey results will also help the government to introduce targeted sectoral measures. The survey was conducted by IMDA and MPA earlier this year and drew participation from more than 200 maritime companies, many of whom are SSA members.

6.     Our findings revealed that most maritime SMEs were “Digital Starters”. Larger local corporates and MNCs fared slightly better and were identified as “Digital Literates”. This shows that more can be done to digitally transform our sector, so that more of our companies can become “Digital Leaders”. COVID-19 has provided us with the perfect opportunity to take stock of our state of digitalisation efforts and areas for improvement, so that we will be better prepared for the future.

Challenges and Opportunities with Digitalisation

7.     Some may ask “why digitalise”? Digitalisation enhances our productivity and is increasingly becoming a pre-requisite to benefit from electronic platforms. One example is the digitalPORT@SG TM , a platform to streamline regulatory transactions in Singapore. Live trials began in October last year, with just 11 companies on board. Today, it is used by more than 550 maritime companies, saving the industry an estimated 100,000 man-hours per year. Digitalisation also removes physical constraints in the provision of services and transactions. For example, the need to transfer and process physical bills of lading may be digitalised in time to come. As seen in the current environment, digitalisation is also key to ensuring our companies are resilient to external disruptions.

8.     However, we know that many companies find it challenging to embrace digitalisation. Some reasons include lack of cashflow and capabilities, or perhaps, companies simply do not know where and how to start.

Maritime Digitalisation Playbook

9.     This is where the new Maritime Digitalisation Playbook comes in. I am pleased to launch the Playbook, a collaboration between MPA, SSA and IMDA. This pandemic has accelerated digitalisation, regardless whether you are a multinational company or a local SME. The Playbook will serve as a guide to help maritime companies uncover opportunities in digital transformation. It includes a Self-Assessment Checklist to determine your company’s digital maturity, which will help to highlight early steps that your company can take in charting their digitalisation roadmap. Our hope is that no matter where you are in your digitalisation journey, the Playbook will help support your vision and development of concrete digitalisation plans to improve the competitiveness and productivity of your company.

10.    Digitalisation requires commitment of time, resources and talent to bear fruit. To support and accelerate companies’ efforts, the Government provides co-funding support for companies’ adoption of maritime-specific digital solutions through the Sea Transport Industry Digital Plan. Companies that face shortages in tech talent can also tap on training grants from IMDA’s Tech Skills Accelerator programme.

Innovating as One Maritime Singapore

11.    For Maritime Singapore to stay ahead, it is important to go beyond transforming individual companies - engendering strong collaboration between industry players to innovate and tackle broader industry-wide challenges is necessary in this journey. For example, Singaporean company F-Drones collaborated with Eastern Pacific and Bernhard Schulte to deliver ship supplies via aerial drones to their vessels that were anchored off Marina South. This significantly reduces manual processes and physical contact required in traditional deliveries via launches.

12.    With the same pioneering spirit, MPA and SSA launched an open call for Joint Industry Projects (JIP) last month to encourage the maritime and technology community, and adjacent sectors, to collaborate to address challenges and seize opportunities arising from COVID-19. The panel today will share more about the first set of industry challenges that MPA and SSA have jointly identified.

13.    Everyone has a part to play. I encourage companies to step forward and share the challenges you have faced, and the solutions you have developed that have worked for you. If what you have developed can benefit the wider maritime community, this can be supported by MPA through the Maritime Innovation & Technology Fund.

Conclusion

14.    COVID-19 has brought about immense challenges to our businesses and livelihoods. Let us turn these challenges into opportunities and build a more digitalised and resilient Maritime Singapore!

15.    Thank you and I wish everyone a fruitful webinar.

1 “The COVID-19 recovery will be digital: A plan for the first 90 days” by Aamer Baig, Paul Jenkins, Eric Lamarre, and Brian McCarthy, McKinsey Digital, 14 May 2020