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Speech by Dr Lam Pin Min, Senior Minister of State for Transport and Health at The Ministry of Transport’s Committee of Supply Debate 2019 on Connecting Singapore to the World, Creating Opportunities for Singaporeans

07 Mar 2019 Speeches


1.     Mr Chairman, I agree with Mr Sitoh wholeheartedly that the work of the Transport Ministry is no child’s play. It affects the lives of thousands and millions of Singaporeans on a daily basis. Speaking as a paediatric ophthalmologist, and I believe my fellow paediatric colleagues will agree - besides treating or operating on the patient who is a child, what’s most important is to win the confidence and trust of the parents who put the lives and wellbeing of their precious one in our hands. Similarly, as we aspire to make our public transport system world-class, we need to gain the confidence and trust of Singaporeans. For example, Singaporeans have made personal sacrifices, such as during the Early Closure and Late Opening while we step up maintenance and upgrading works for the rail system. I want to thank Singaporeans for their understanding. It is a delicate balance. We must not rest on our laurels and we will continue to work hard at it. Mr Chairman, may I have your permission for slides to be displayed during MOT’s replies to Members?

2.     Mr Chairman, Members have raised good questions about the Ministry of Transport’s work across air, sea and land transport. Together, Acting Minister Vivian Balakrishnan, SMS Janil Puthucheary, SPS Baey Yam Keng and I will address the queries in three themes:

3.     First, Connecting Singapore to the World. Changi Airport and our port play an important role in making Singapore a global city and a vibrant economic hub. For this theme, I will speak on how we are strengthening connectivity with ASEAN and working with international organisations, as well as investing in our air and sea hubs. In addition to discussing domestic public transport issues, Acting Minister for Transport Vivian Balakrishnan will also address Members’ questions on bilateral issues with Malaysia.

4.     Second, Cultivating Innovation and Creating Opportunities for All. Embracing technology and innovation will be key in strengthening our transport sectors, and creating opportunities for Singaporeans. I will share on some technologies we are harnessing in the aviation and maritime domains. Back home, we are embracing innovative commuting options such as private hire cars and active mobility devices. SMS Janil will speak on our plans to regulate the point-to-point sector, and I will speak on active mobility.

5.     Third, Co-Creating with Singaporeans, Bringing Singapore Together. Last year, we started work on the next Land Transport Master Plan (LTMP) to set out the vision for our land transport system in 2040. We have consulted widely to co-create a vision with Singaporeans and build a land transport system which meets the diverse needs of Singaporeans. SMS Janil will elaborate on LTMP 2040 and SPS Baey will share how we are creating an inclusive land transport system for all.


6.     Let me now turn to the first theme: Connecting Singapore to the World. This year, we mark the Singapore Bicentennial. But even before 1819, there were already records of Singapore being a thriving sea port. We were a location where East met West, and for many centuries an important port for trading valuable spices like pepper and nutmeg.

7.     After independence, our pioneers turned our location into an advantage. They built the first container terminal in Southeast Asia at Tanjong Pagar in 1972, despite the uncertainty that containerisation would even take off. Not long after, against the consultants’ recommendations, they shifted our international airport from Paya Lebar to Changi, to accommodate the future expansion of the airport. Today, our buzzing sea port and Changi Airport are all part and parcel of the Singapore identity.

8.     But we cannot take what we have for granted. As Mr Sitoh Yih Pin rightly noted, there is much to be done for our air and sea hubs to remain relevant and competitive in the long term.


Expanding connectivity to benefit the region

9.     First, aviation and maritime are international businesses. The flow of goods and people is dependent on good connectivity between different regions. A dense network of Southeast Asia nodes will enable all of us to ride on Asia’s growth together. For example, since the first ASEAN Air Services Agreement was signed in 2009 to liberalise air rights for ASEAN airlines for flights within ASEAN, passenger traffic within ASEAN has grown by more than 90%. This has coincided with a period of strong growth in ASEAN tourism.

10    The expansion of connectivity beyond ASEAN will further stimulate tourism growth. Since the signing of the ASEAN-China Air Transport Agreement in 2011, direct links have increased more than fivefold to over 500, providing more flexible and convenient travel options between China and Southeast Asia. In 2018, the number of Chinese tourists to Southeast Asia reached 25 million, up from 10 million before the Agreement. For Singapore, the number of Chinese tourists visiting Singapore grew from 1.6 to 3.4 million. Singapore’s extensive air links to China also connect Chinese passengers to the region – the Singapore/Malaysia/Thailand tour itinerary (新马泰游) is a popular one. The Singapore Tourism Board, Changi Airport Group and Royal Caribbean International also have a tripartite partnership to sail Chinese Fly-Cruise tourists from Singapore to Southeast Asia.

11.    This is why Singapore participates actively in establishing stronger links between the region and the rest of the world. There are on-going negotiations on air transport agreements between ASEAN and the European Union, and between ASEAN and Japan. These agreements would further boost economic ties, and enable the aviation industries of these countries to better tap on the Asia-Pacific market.

12.    Similarly, maritime connectivity plays an important role in supporting the growing region. Over the past decade, the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development has recorded a steady rise in the Liner Shipping Connectivity Index scores of ASEAN countries. This means that the region is increasingly connected to the global shipping network. Singapore will continue to play our part. We have built a reliable and densely connected network, by anchoring key shipping lines and alliances that ply the main shipping route from Asia to Europe. Together with our strong complementary feeder network to ASEAN ports, we ensure that goods manufactured in Southeast Asia can be delivered efficiently worldwide.

13.    We are also developing new and efficient maritime trade routes. The New International Land Sea Trade Corridor under the Chongqing Connectivity Initiative, also known as CCI-ILSTC, is one example. This new route helps businesses in Southeast Asia access Chinese markets more efficiently. For example, Indonesian paper pulp is traditionally shipped via bulk to Jiangsu and conveyed by barge into Chongqing. Now, they can be containerised and transported through the CCI-ILSTC, saving time and money for businesses.


14.    Mr Chairman, we must also grow our connectivity in a sustainable way. In this regard, Singapore contributes actively to the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) and International Maritime Organization (IMO), to play our part in strengthening international aviation and maritime systems.

15.    For example, Singapore is fully supportive of IMO’s efforts to address the environmental impact caused by ship emissions. We will be implementing the 0.5% sulphur emission cap, and preparing our port to supply liquefied natural gas as a clean marine fuel by 2020. On the aviation front, Singapore contributed extensively to ICAO’s efforts in addressing international aviation carbon dioxide emissions through the implementation of the Carbon Offsetting and Reduction Scheme for International Aviation (CORSIA). This global initiative will help ICAO achieve its aspirational goal of carbon-neutral growth from 2020.

16.    At the same time, we are working with ASEAN to push for our collective interest at international platforms. For example, Singapore is now collaborating with Malaysia and Indonesia to implement a “Same Risk Area” for ballast water management, following IMO’s approval of the concept. The idea is to identify areas where species would be naturally transferred without using ballast water from ships as a medium, and thus regarded as having the “same risk”. Ships operating in the “Same Risk Area” can then be exempted from IMO’s requirement to install ballast water management systems. This makes it easier for ships operating short voyages in our region, while ensuring that we play our part in protecting the marine environment.


17.    Back home, we must continue to invest in quality infrastructure to provide the needed capacity and strengthen Singapore’s global connectivity.

18.    We are currently building Tuas Terminal and developing Changi East including the new Terminal 5 (T5). Mr Chairman, with your permission, I would like to display some photos on the LED screens.

19.    Reclamation works for Tuas Terminal are progressing well, and we are on track to commence the first phase of operations in 2021. Not only will Tuas Terminal be able to handle high container volumes and bigger vessels, it will be a smarter port — with a higher degree of automation to improve efficiency, safety and service levels. Similarly, the development of Changi East is on track and T5 is expected to commence operations around 2030.

20.    Before T5 comes on stream, we will enhance our current airport infrastructure. Terminal 1’s upgrading is nearing completion. Jewel will also open on 17 April, with aviation facilities that will improve the travel experience for passengers, such as early check-in facilities, integrated ticketing and baggage services for fly-cruise and fly-coach transfers, in addition to its array of attractions and retail and dining offerings. I am happy to hear from Mr Sitoh that he believes Jewel Changi Airport will be a delight for visitors and Singaporeans alike.He must be referring to popular F&B brands like American fast food chain Shake Shack, London’s famed Burger & Lobster chain, Merdeka Generation’s old favourite A&W, and local delights like Violet Oon’s restaurant. I had the privilege to go on a sneak preview of Jewel together with Mr Sitoh, and my first impression was – wow! Indeed, it will live up to its name – Jewel – and be a world-class lifestyle destination set to inspire and entertain visitors both local and overseas.

21.    Upgrading works on Terminal 2 will also start soon. Terminal 2 will be expanded and refreshed, with automated check-in kiosks, biometric-enabled bag-drops and automated immigration gates, to offer passengers greater convenience from check-in to immigration to their flight.


22.    Harnessing technology and innovation is one of our main strategies under the Industry Transformation Maps (ITMs) for both air and sea transport. Since the ITMs were rolled out early last year, we have been working closely with the industry and unions, to review systems and processes, and use technology to augment human capabilities.

23.    At the airport, airside drivers drive tractors to tow baggage between terminals and aircraft. This process is strenuous. So with support from the Civil Aviation Authority of Singapore (CAAS), SATS, the largest ground handler at Changi, is experimenting with Autonomous Container Trailers. If successful, it would mean less physically straining jobs, and more higher-skilled jobs such as Autonomous Vehicle Operators and Fleet Managers.

24.    We are also automating our sea port to raise productivity. Jurong Port previously used traditional forklifts and flatbed trailers to unload steel, which constitutes more than half of their handled cargo. It now deploys customised side-loaders, which has helped to reduce its manpower requirement for steel unloading by 60%.

25.    Such technologies make a real difference to our port workers. One of them is Mr Haja Maidin, who worked as a Container Equipment Specialist at PSA for the past 27 years. The automation of yard cranes at Pasir Panjang Terminal gave Mr Haja the opportunity to take on a supervisory role as a Ground Operations Controller. He also picked up new skills to use stowage planning systems.

26.    Besides investing in technology, we want to help our companies embrace technology. To support SMEs, the Maritime and Port Authority of Singapore (MPA), in collaboration with the Infocomm Media Development Authority and Enterprise Singapore, will roll out the Sea Transport Industry Digital Plan (IDP) under the SMEs Go Digital Programme. The idea is to make going digital simple for SMEs. The IDP provides a step-by-step guide on digital technologies that SMEs can adopt at different stages of growth. SMEs can also tap on available Government co-funding when they adopt the list of digital solutions relevant for the sea transport sector for their digital journey. As a start, we will be rolling out the Sea Transport IDP to ship agency and harbour craft companies. More details will be provided at the Sea Transport IDP launch.

27.    We will also continue to experiment and push the boundaries of emerging technology. The payoffs will not be immediate. Mr Pritam Singh asked about the Centre of Excellence for Air Traffic Management. The Centre of Excellence for the ATM Programme Fund of $200 million was established in 2012. As of now, $142 million has been committed for research and development projects in air traffic management. For example, the Centre of Excellence initiated research activities to explore a smart digital tower concept for high intensity operations at Changi Airport. This project has progressed from the laboratory to the field, where we have commenced the development of a smart digital tower prototype in January 2018. Mr Pritam Singh also asked about the status of our space-based VHF communications for air traffic management. Globally, space-based VHF comms technology is still nascent and still under development. CAAS is in the design phase together with our industry partners. But it is important that we help our companies build deep capabilities today, so that they gain competitive advantages for the future.

28.    Several companies are already taking a lead in building that ‘innovator’s DNA’ in their workforce. SIA and Lufthansa have opened their own innovation labs in Singapore to trial new technologies. Wärtsilä [pronounced: vart-si-la], a Finnish maritime company, has also set up their Digital Acceleration Centre as part of MPA’s Living Lab initiative.

29.    We will continue to create a supportive environment and explore deeper collaborations with the industry. One area is unmanned aircraft systems, more commonly referred to as drones. To support innovative uses of drones, MPA and CAAS will launch the Maritime Drone Estate near Marina South Pier. Its close proximity to an anchorage provides a conducive environment to test-bed and develop drone technology for maritime applications. It will also serve as a regulatory sandbox for the development of regulatory and safety standards for maritime drone operations. The industry has already been active in this arena. For example, Wilhelmsen and Airbus are trialling the use of drones to deliver goods from shore to ship, which will increase productivity and reduce manpower needed compared to deliveries by boats today.

30.    As we facilitate more beneficial uses of drones, we are mindful of the potential safety and security threats arising from its errant and irresponsible use, as seen from the incidents at Gatwick and Newark airports. In January, I had informed the House that we have in place measures to deal with such threats, and coordinate closely with the Ministry of Defence and Ministry of Home Affairs on such efforts. To ensure that drones are operated safely, CAAS is also looking into strengthening the Unmanned Aircraft Regulatory Framework. This may include the mandatory registration of drones.


31.    Mr Chairman, our aviation and maritime investments will create rewarding career opportunities for Singaporeans. For example, Jewel Changi Airport will open up over 2,000 new retail and hospitality jobs.  Businesses are participating in Workforce Singapore’s career fairs to recruit locals into these jobs.

32.    Our efforts to attract global players to grow their businesses in Singapore will also create more job and business opportunities. Last year, we welcomed new entrants into our maritime sector, such as Thenemaris and Cheng Lie Navigation. Key players already in Singapore such as Ocean Network Express, Wilhelmsen Ship Management and Wärtsilä have also expanded their operations here.

33.    At the same time, under the ITMs, the government, unions and companies are working together to develop a future ready aviation and maritime workforce. Some workers may worry about how their current jobs will be affected by technological changes, and whether their skillsets will remain relevant for the future. I want to assure them that we will support them to grow and learn new skills.

34.    CAAS and SkillsFuture Singapore, in consultation with tripartite partners, launched the Skills Framework for the Air Transport Sector last year. It informs employees of career pathways and the skills required for different jobs, and provides companies with guidelines for better employee training. More aviation companies are using the framework to invest in the training and development of their employees.  For example, SATS has set up a SATS Academy which introduces interesting ways of staff training, such as using virtual reality to simulate scenarios for technical ramp training.

35.    We are also better integrating studies and work. We already have several programmes that allow students and employees to work and study at the same time.

36.    One such programme is MPA’s Global Internship Award (GIA) which allows students to intern at international maritime companies, whilst still pursuing their undergraduate studies. Mr Damon Er interned at Braemar ACM Shipbroking under the GIA in 2016, when he was still studying at NTU. He received a job offer right after the internship, and is now working as a dry cargo Capesize trainee broker.

37.    Aspiring port engineers can enroll in the Work-Learn Technical Diploma in Port Automation Technology, run by PSA and ITE. It helps our students and workers acquire skillsets necessary for a highly automated port, through a combination of structured classroom teaching and on-the-job training at PSA.

38.    We have received good feedback on the Earn-and-Learn Programme (ELP) which allows fresh graduates to work and obtain an industry-recognised certification at the same time.

39.    Mr Elias Heng started his career under the ELP for Marine Engineering Officer and sailed as a Fourth Engineer with Apex Ship Management Pte Ltd. The structured on-the-job training helped him to prepare for higher seafaring certifications. Upon completion of the ELP, he went on to further his training and has since been promoted to a Third Engineer with Apex.

40.    Likewise, Ms Kylie Pang, a SATS customer services agent, pursued two skills-based Modular Certificates under the ELP which helped her develop both soft and technical skills. This gave her a head-start in her career. She is now working towards completing the three remaining Modular Certificates, to obtain a full Diploma in Aviation Management from Temasek Polytechnic.

41.    This year, MPA will introduce another ELP for shore-based jobs in the ship owning, ship operating and ship broking sectors. And CAAS will enhance the course fee support to cover three additional modular certifications for the Passenger Service Agents ELP. With these enhancements, more people will benefit from the ELP, just like Elias and Kylie.


42.    Mr Chairman, as we reflect on our past and chart our plans for the future, we know that a Singapore that is well-connected to the world is key to our success. With that, thank you.