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Speech by Minister for Transport, Mr Ong Ye Kung, at the International Maritime Organization-Singapore Future of Shipping Conference

23 Apr 2021 Speeches

Collaborating with the international community on the new frontiers in maritime

Secretary-General of the IMO, Mr Kitack Lim

Excellencies and distinguished guests

Ladies and gentlemen


1.     Since the age of the explorers, ships have enabled goods and people to flow around the world.  Over the centuries, trade flows have grown, and globalisation quickened.  

2.     With the advent of the steamship in the 19th century, we were no longer at the mercy of the winds. The invention of the humble container facilitated explosive growth in world trade. 

3.     With trade, comes greater business opportunities, creation of jobs, co-operation and inter-dependence between countries, which set the pre-condition for peace and stability.  Developments in shipping had, and will continue to have, a real impact on the development of economies and uplifting of lives around the world.

4.     The shipping community – comprising ports, vessels, seafarers, shippers – is itself very inter-connected. I am happy that many distinguished partners who believe in finding solutions together are gathered at this Conference. I am especially grateful to the IMO, which is organising this Conference with us after the very successful Future of Shipping Webinars held last year.

5.     Today the maritime industry is charting some exciting new frontiers. Let me share on two areas – decarbonisation and digitalisation – where we can work together to realise a better future of shipping.


6.     Climate change is a global emergency. Its impact is gradual but serious, and the impetus to address it is urgent. In Singapore, with the launch of the Singapore Green Plan 2030, sustainable development and decarbonisation is now a national imperative. 

7.     The maritime industry needs to play its part in this plan. International shipping accounts for about 2-3% of global greenhouse gas emissions. The IMO has adopted targets for international shipping to reduce carbon intensity by at least 40% by 2030, and to at least halve total greenhouse gas emissions by 2050, both in comparison to 2008 levels. 

8.     Using transhipment container hub ports like Singapore, is the most economically and environmentally efficient way to move international cargo. Cargo can be consolidated on larger ships, direct port to port sailings can be reduced, and vessel idle times also reduced through efficient port operations.  

9.     Together, we can take further steps to make the shipping of tomorrow greener.  Singapore will do our part. 

10.    The Singapore Maritime Foundation, with the support of MPA, convened an International Advisory Panel on Maritime Decarbonisation (IAP) last year. The IAP has brought together leaders from industry, academia, and government to propose pathways to decarbonise the industry. The IAP has released its recommendations earlier this week, and co-chair Mr Andreas Sohmen-Pao will be speaking more about them later at this Conference.

11.    One critical area to work on is the maritime fuel of the future. Zero-carbon fuels like ammonia and hydrogen are possible, but these ideal solutions are quite a distance away from being viable.  

12.    In the interim, LNG is recognised as a practical and transitional fuel to reduce carbon and sulphur emissions as compared to conventional maritime fuels. Last month, the first ship-to-containership LNG bunkering operations was completed in Singapore waters. We are also supporting the industry to research, test, and adopt green fuels and technologies, through the enhanced Maritime GreenFuture Fund, and the new maritime decarbonisation centre.  

13.    To spur this whole process on, we need the right price signals. Hence, a very meaningful action plan is to introduce an international, non-discriminatory levy on marine fuel consumption, and channel the proceeds into research and development of cleaner maritime fuels. 

14.    To support these longer term developments, the MPA, the Singapore Shipping Association (SSA), and the Global Compact Network Singapore (GCNS) will sign an MoU to train the industry in carbon accounting, support companies in managing and lowering emissions, and recognise and proliferate best practices.

15.    Some of our IAP’s recommendations may also be relevant to the global industry. The IMO and Singapore are also working together on a joint initiative called NextGEN. NextGEN aims to consolidate and ultimately develop a set of global initiatives to decarbonize maritime transport. The first meeting of NextGEN stakeholders will be held later in this Conference.


16.    Let me turn to the second frontier, digitalisation. Digitalisation is bringing about a broad and profound transformation across every aspect of our lives, including maritime.  

17.    Earlier this week, I announced that Singapore was launching operational trials for Phase 2 of digitalPORT@SGTM. This provides a single platform for all vessel-related transactions, or what the industry calls a “Maritime Single Window”.  

18.    We are already saving the industry about 100,000 man-hours per year with Phase 1.  Phase 2 will enable customers to access just-in-time marine services such as bunkering. This will enable ships to turn around faster and reduce the emissions by ships in port.

19.    The merits of a Maritime Single Window are inherently constrained, if only adopted at one port.  That is why Singapore has partnered the IMO to initiate Project SWiFT – or Single Window for Facilitation of Trade. Project SWiFT aims to build a Maritime Single Window system for developing countries to digitise their port clearance processes. Last month, the IMO invited interested Member States to apply to participate, and a suitable pilot country will be selected soon.

20.    We are still at a nascent stage of fully leveraging the potential of digitalisation.  We must continue to collaborate with one another, to ensure that digitalisation in maritime is inclusive, and that we can fully unlock its benefits for global trade.


21.    The maritime sector is global in nature, and so are the frontiers we must face together.  In decarbonisation and digitalisation, a collaborative spirit is most needed in our global village. The IMO plays a critical role to build an international consensus on our collective responses to shared challenges.

22.    With a deep commitment to collaboration, we can realise a better future of shipping together.  And by weaving this ever stronger global maritime community across the oceans, we can bring goods and people from far away, ever closer together. Thank you.