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Speech by Senior Minister of State for Transport and Health Lam Pin Min at The Ministry of Transport’s Committee of Supply Debate 2020 Sustainable & Competitive Industries and Sustainable Environment with a focus on Aviation, Maritime and Active Mobility

05 Mar 2020 Speeches

1.     Mr Chairman, Minister Khaw spoke about the impact of COVID-19 on our Transport network and our strategies for eventual recovery. He also laid down the vision of a clean and green transport system in Singapore. I will now elaborate on our efforts in the aviation and maritime sectors and share how we can develop our cycling infrastructure to complement our vision for a clean and green transport network.

COVID-19 – Supporting the Aviation and Maritime Sectors

2.     COVID-19 has hurt the aviation and maritime sectors. Passenger traffic at Changi Airport and cruise and ferry passenger numbers have declined significantly. Our priority for the coming months is clear: first, help industry tide over this difficult time; and second, position for recovery so that we emerge from this even stronger.  

3.     First, we will help the aviation and maritime sectors tide over this difficult time. On top of the economy-wide measures, we have rolled out a $112m assistance package to help the aviation sector defray cost and ease cash flow pressures. For the maritime sector, we have provided a 50% port dues concession to passenger vessels, on top of all existing concessions. We will also provide targeted assistance to affected ferry operators and other enterprises located at Marina South Pier and West Coast Pier. 

4.     We are also helping companies reduce their costs so that they can help Singaporeans keep their jobs and use this time to go for training. Take for example airline crew, which Mr Ang Hin Kee asked about. Due to the adverse impact of COVID-19, the SIA Group has temporarily suspended more than  9,000 flights, or nearly 15% of all its scheduled flights, from February to end ofMay. Notwithstanding this, SIA is committed to helping its crew keep their jobs. The Government is supporting this, through rebates on landing and parking charges, waivers of regulatory fees and the Jobs Support Scheme. These measures will help ease the financial pressure and support the retention of local employees. Early this week, SkillsFuture Singapore (SSG), Workforce Singapore (WSG), the Civil Aviation Authority of Singapore (CAAS) and NTUC announced an enhanced training funding and support package for air transport companies; we will work with airlines to facilitate their staff, including cabin crew, to attend training courses and will monitor the take-up rate. 

5.     We are watching the situation very closely and stand ready to do more if the situation worsens. Our commitment to our aviation and maritime sectors is this: we will get through this together. Working together as SGUnited, we can overcome COVID-19. 

Competitive and Sustainable International Transport Hub

6. Second, we will work with industry to position for recovery so that we emerge from this even stronger.  Mr Yee Chia Hsing asked how we can keep our air and sea hubs competitive. To stay competitive, we will invest in the 3 Cs - Capacity, Capability and Connectivity, and at the same time, develop sustainability as our new priority. 

Competitive Industries

7.     Current challenges notwithstanding, air passenger numbers are expected to double from four billion to eight billion globally in the next 20 years; one in two of this growth or 50 percent of this growth, will be in Asia. For the maritime sector, the growth outlook is likewise positive. These translate to huge demand for capacity, capability and connectivity, and offer tremendous opportunities for Singapore. But how do we respond to this?

8.     First, on capacity. We will press on with Changi Terminal 5 and Tuas Port so that we are in time with new infrastructural capacity to meet future demand. We are not done building our air and sea hubs; our effort will not be hampered by the COVID-19.  

9.     Second, on capability. We cannot meet the new demand just by growing manpower; we need to leverage technology and raise productivity. We will help companies transform and capture new opportunities. 

a.     Take for example: CAAS will extend the $280 million Aviation Development Fund for another five years from 2020 to 2025. Since 2015, the Fund has already helped nearly 80 organisations raise productivity through over 200 initiatives. Real value-add per worker has increased by over 7% between 2015 and 2018. One such initiative is SATS’s smart glasses. It uses augmented reality technology to track the real-time location of baggage and cargo units and helps workers cut loading time.  

b.     The Maritime Port Authority of Singapore (MPA) and IMDA have also launched the Digital Acceleration Index to help maritime companies self-evaluate their digital maturity. MPA and the Singapore Shipping Association will take this a step further to launch the Maritime Innovation Playbook to help companies develop their digitalisation plans. Companies can also tap on MPA’s Maritime Cluster Fund and the Sea Transport Industry Digitalisation Plan to support their digitalisation efforts. 

10.    We will also equip workers with new skills to take on new and better jobs. We will train up a younger generation of Singaporeans so that they can benefit and grow with the air and sea industries. Come April, together with ITE, we will launch two new Work-Study Diploma courses in Airport Operations and Maritime Business Management respectively. 

11.    Third, on connectivity. While demand may be down now, we will continue to maintain connectivity so that we can bounce back quickly when recovery returns. We will continue to push for air services liberalisation, to strengthen existing connections to cities and to build new ones. We will also go beyond physical connectivity to build digital connectivity. MPA’s digitalPORT@SG™ will streamline digital port clearance processes for ships calling at Singapore and improve the efficiency of vessel calls. Likewise, digitalOCEANS™ will link us up to other maritime platforms globally to improve efficiency in the global supply chain.  

12.    The safety and security of our sea-lanes is fundamental to maritime connectivity. Mr Dennis Tan asked what more we can do to address piracy and armed robbery incidents in the Strait of Singapore.  

a.     I would like to reassure the House that our maritime security agencies, the RSN and PCG, will deal with any suspicious vessel entering Singapore waters robustly, and take actions against perpetrators of crimes conducted.

b.     However, as the Strait of Singapore does not only include Singapore territorial waters, the fight against piracy and armed robbery requires strong collaboration among all regional partners. Singapore cannot tackle it alone. 

c.     This is why there is the Malacca Straits Patrol (MSP) involving our military, and the militaries of Malaysia, Indonesia and Thailand. The MSP includes air and sea patrols in the Straits of Malacca and Singapore. And as the Minister for Defence had shared with the House during MINDEF’s COS Debates on Monday, MINDEF has reached out to its counterparts in Malaysia and Indonesia to propose that MSP be extended to other areas in our surrounding waters. Discussions are ongoing. The RSN’s Maritime Security Task Force will also be enhancing their capabilities to deal with maritime threats.

d.     Other actions are also taken to combat piracy and armed-robbery. MPA advises commercial vessels to stay vigilant, keep a lookout for pirates, and take anti-piracy measures such as holding training drills. Singapore is also part of a region-wide initiative called ReCAAP (Regional Cooperation Agreement on Combating Piracy & Armed Robbery against ships in Asia), which facilitates timely and accurate information sharing so that the respective littoral States and the shipping community can take prompt remedial actions.

Sustainable Industries

13.    While we position ourselves to seize the growth opportunities in aviation and maritime, we will do so sustainably. Singapore will not just be a competitive international transport hub but also a sustainable one. Let me lay out some of our strategies.   

14.    On the aviation front, we will play our part to contribute towards the International Civil Aviation Organization’s (ICAO’s) aspirational goals of 2% annual fuel efficiency improvement and carbon neutral growth from 2020 onwards. 

15.    First, Singapore is ready to participate in the voluntary phase of the Carbon Offsetting and Reduction Scheme for International Aviation (CORSIA) that starts next year. Under the scheme, our airlines will freeze their carbon footprint at current levels by reducing emissions and purchasing carbon credits.

16.    Second, Singapore’s aviation community will work together towards a greener aviation. Singapore Airlines has invested in the latest aircraft models that are more fuel efficient, and has an average fleet age that is nearly half that of the industry.  CAAS, our Air Navigation Service Provider, will continue to invest in new technologies and air traffic management processes to improve flow and cut delays; in 2019, these processes reduced about 130,000 tonnes of carbon emissions. Changi Airport Group will continue to invest in environmental sustainability initiatives, such as energy-efficient cooling systems, infrastructure for charging electric vehicles and renewable energy options.

17.    Third, we will study the use of sustainable aviation fuels in Singapore (SAFs). SAFs can reduce emissions by up to 80% over their life cycle compared to conventional jet fuel, but they are two to five times more expensive today. Singapore houses key global aerospace companies and fuel producers, such as Rolls Royce, Shell and Neste. The Government and the industry players are studying different business and technological models to enable economically viable and sustainable SAF supply chains in Singapore.

18.    On the maritime front, Singapore is committed to environmentally sustainable international shipping under the leadership of the International Maritime Organization, or IMO.

19.    On 1 January 2020, Singapore, together with the rest of the world, implemented the IMO 2020 regulation that reduces the permitted sulphur content in the fuels used by vessels from 3.5% to 0.5% outside designated Emission Control Areas. Beyond this, the IMO has set a longer-term target to reduce the total annual greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions caused by international shipping by at least 50% by 2050, from 2008 levels.   

20.    Singapore will play our part under IMO2050. While IMO2050 is still 30 years away, we will start making plans now so that our companies and workers are equipped to seize new opportunities that arise from the shift.  I am happy to announce today three new initiatives to position Singapore for long-term maritime sustainability.

a.     First, MPA will launch the Maritime Singapore Decarbonisation Blueprint 2050 next year. The blueprint will chart out strategies to achieve a sustainable maritime Singapore and establish Singapore as a responsible hub port and international maritime centre.

b.     Second, the Singapore Maritime Foundation will set up an International Advisory Panel to garner inputs from local and international leaders from the industry and academia for this effort. The panel will convene for the first time in April this year. 

c.     Third, MPA and its partners will set aside $40 million under the Maritime GreenFuture Fund to be used for the research, test-bedding, and adoption of low-carbon technologies.

21.    Mr Chairman, this is what we do to help our aviation and maritime sectors compete - always looking beyond the horizon; planning for the long-term; working in close partnership with workers and companies – and this will distinguish Singapore from other competing cities. 

Islandwide Cycling Network (ICN): Bringing Cycling Paths Closer to You

22.    Our land transport system also plays an important role in securing a sustainable future for Singaporeans. 

23.    We will continue to work towards our car-lite vision and promote public, shared and active modes of transport as they are the most environmentally sustainable. I will touch on our efforts to promote active mobility, which has a low environmental footprint, and complements our public transport system in moving towards a car-lite society in Singapore. 

24.    In cultivating a sustainable active mobility landscape, we have enhanced our regulatory and enforcement regimes. With the recent ban of e-scooters on footpaths, and enhanced regulatory regime on active mobility devices, path safety has improved.

a.     Like Mr Dennis Tan said, businesses have a role to play, which is why LTA has introduced regulations on companies, and continues to work closely with companies to encourage responsible behaviour by their riders. One requirement is that companies must ensure that all riders they hire in the course of work have third-party liability insurance. LTA will specify minimum requirements for these insurance policies. 

b.     Mr Dennis Tan has also pointed out the importance of public education and enforcement. That is why we are introducing a mandatory theory test for all e-scooter and PAB riders to educate and raise awareness. We have also enhanced the penalties to strengthen deterrence against offences like speeding and reckless riding. LTA will not hesitate to take errant riders to task. Regarding Mr Dennis Tan’s suggestion to disqualify riders to who commit serious offences from riding, we will work with AMAP, the Active Mobility Advisory Panel, to study if it is necessary to do so, depending on the safety situation going forward.

25.    Several Members have asked about our infrastructure plans. They will be pleased to know that we are accelerating the development of cycling paths. We previously announced that there would be 750km of cycling paths by 2025. We will bring this milestone forward by 2 years, reaching 800km of cycling paths by 2023 , which is not that far way, about 3 years away. The Government plans to invest over $1 billion, as part of the Islandwide Cycling Network Programme (ICN), to bring the cycling path network closer to Singaporeans’ doorsteps. 

a.     By 2023, all HDB towns will have cycling paths. All HDB residents will have direct access to a wider cycling path network that is almost double the existing network. Residents can look forward to the cycling path plans for their towns within the year. LTA is working closely with government agencies and local communities to ensure that the cycling path network meets the needs of residents.

i.     Towns which currently lack cycling paths or have many active mobility device users will have cycling paths built first. 

ii.    For towns with cycling path networks, we will continue to enhance connectivity, so that residents can enjoy more seamless access to key transport nodes and amenities like the town centre, MRT stations, eateries and malls.

iii.   And like Mr Ang Wei Neng has highlighted, constructing cycling paths in mature towns require trade-offs, especially in densely built-up mature towns. In some cases, we may have no choice but to reclaim grass verges and affect trees. In others, we may need to repurpose roads. 

b.     By 2026, Singapore’s cycling path network will be expanded to 1,000km. With this, 8 in 10 HDB residents will be a few minutes away from the cycling path network. 

i.     Most HDB residents will be within 250m from the nearest cycling path. This cycling path density is comparable to cities such as Amsterdam or Copenhagen. 

ii.    HDB residents can expect to reach their nearest town centre within 20 minutes using active mobility modes. 

c.     By 2030, we would have trebled the cycling path network to 1,320 km. Singaporeans will benefit from a comprehensive cycling path network connecting all HDB towns. 

i.     The expanded cycling path network will allow more inter-town journeys to be carried out entirely on cycling paths. Active mobility device users can look forward to a safer and more seamless riding experience, with fewer interruptions. 

ii.    In addition, residents in Queenstown, Geylang, Jurong West, Sembawang, Yishun and Ang Mo Kio can rely on the Queenstown-City and Geylang-City routes, the Round-Island-Route, and North-South Corridor for journeys from their homes to the city before 2030.

26.    With these developments, more journeys can be carried out entirely on the cycling path network, as Mr Yee Chia Hsing has pointed out.

27.    Lastly, we need to develop the right culture of graciousness.

a.     This is critical in a densely populated Singapore, where users of different modes of transport are constantly in close proximity. 

b.     The Active Mobility Advisory Panel will continue to promote greater acceptance of active mobility in Singapore, by focusing more on engagement and educational measures and calling on all path users to be safe and considerate. 

c.     Going forward, how can we do better, together? I would like to suggest a simple way – which is to look out for one another.

i.     On roads, motorists should practice good road safety habits, and be vigilant and look out for other road users.

ii.    On paths, device users should watch out for other path users and ride safely and considerately. Pedestrians should also be alert to their surroundings and keep to the left unless overtaking. They should walk on footpaths wherever they are located adjacent to cycling paths.  

28.    We will also continue to monitor the environmental impact of our other land transport projects. Take for instance the Cross Island Line. We have engaged stakeholders extensively since 2013, and will continue to do so even as the project enters the Advanced Engineering Studies phase. Concerning the proposed worksite near the Singapore Island Country Club that Mr Louis Ng mentioned, LTA is committed to exploring how the worksite’s footprint can be optimised, and is in discussions with SICC to make use of its non-playing areas. 

Conclusion

29. Mr Chairman, we will stay resilient in this challenging period of COVID-19 and together, we will weather this storm. As Mr Yee Chia Hsing said, we did not become a major international aviation and maritime hub by chance, but through having a bold vision and thorough planning. We will continue to invest for the future, and sow the seeds for sustainable and competitive transport sectors. I will now hand over to SMS Janil who will explain our strategies for a sustainable land transport system.