Opening Address by Mr Chee Hong Tat, Senior Minister of State for Transport and Finance, at the 9th International Safety@Sea Conference

30 Aug 2022Speeches

Mr Ishak Ismail, Chairman, National Maritime Safety at Sea Council, Singapore,

Professor Chan Eng Soon, Chairman, Marine Industries Committee, Workplace Safety and Health Council,

Sister Mary Liew, President, National Trades Union Congress and General Secretary, Singapore Maritime Officers’ Union

Ms Quah Ley Hoon, Chief Executive, Maritime and Port Authority of Singapore,

Distinguished guests, including friends from overseas,

Ladies and Gentlemen, 

1.    Good afternoon and thank you very much for inviting me to this year’s International Safety@Sea Conference. 


2.     The theme for this year’s conference is “Riding the Waves for Maritime Safety”. It is appropriate for our tripartite partners to focus on this important topic, because safety must remain our number one priority as we emerge from two and a half-years of the COVID-19 pandemic.   

3.     Maritime Singapore has remained resilient and became stronger than before, with good potential for further growth and expansion. Our seafarers and maritime workers adapted well to enhanced border health measures and safety protocols, including for crew change and vaccination that we developed together with our tripartite partners. 

4.     Our hub port and international maritime centre played a key role in enhancing Singapore’s connectivity with the world and to keep essential supplies flowing,  including during the pandemic. We are continuing with our investments for the future, to digitalise and decarbonise our maritime industry.  

5.     COVID-19 has catalysed changes in different aspects of maritime operations. Maritime companies were able to innovate, leverage technology, and enhance their work processes during the pandemic. Let me give you some examples, 

a.     Engineering companies employed drones to carry out ship inspections, which enhanced operational efficiency and reduced the need for inspectors to board vessels.  

b.     Seafarers gained access to medical consultations and treatments through tele-consultations without medical professionals physically boarding the vessels. While some of these tele-consultations started out of necessity, as it was unsafe for medical professionals to board vessels. Even today as it is safe, such technologies can allow us to achieve the same task with greater efficiency. We would also be better prepared for a future pandemic.

6.      Going forward, how can we do more with technology and make better use of technology as tools to improve maritime safety? I would like to propose that we can do so through three “builds”: 

a.     First, by building enabling infrastructure to enhance connectivity and coverage to support the deployment of future-ready technologies;

b.     Second, by building systems and networks that integrate individual sensors and data systems to have a more comprehensive overview of the situation; and

c.     Third, by building smart and predictive digital services that can extract greater value from our data for better safety outcomes.

Building enabling infrastructure to enhance connectivity and coverage to support the deployment of future-ready technologies

7.     Let me start with enabling infrastructure to support safer operations with an update on our Maritime 5G network for our port waters. 

8.     I first spoke about this during the 2022 Committee of Supply, where I described the initiative as a key enabler for Maritime Singapore - “Maritime 5G for Maritime SG”.   

a.     To recap, this will be a joint collaboration and co-funded by MPA and the Infocomm Media Development Agency, IMDA. 

b.     5G will provide higher internet speeds and bandwidth, up to 100 times faster than the current 4G technology, and will significantly reduce the latency of data exchanges. 

c.     This will enable large amounts of data, including video and real-time information, to flow seamlessly between different digital systems onshore and on-board vessels. 

9.     The Maritime 5G network will be rolled out progressively across our port waters. 

a.     Last year, MPA partnered with IMDA and M1, one of the telecommunications providers in Singapore, to make 5G available to start-up and companies at the Maritime Drone Estate 5G open testbed to develop, adopt and commercialise drone and maritime solutions.  This was a useful pilot to kick-start the Maritime 5G project.

b.     We are not stopping with the pilot, as we know that the 5G technology will allow us to do a lot more.

c.     Through an MOU between MPA and IMDA earlier this month, M1 has successfully secured a grant from both agencies to provide a 5G standalone network with full coverage of our port waters.

i.     With the 5G stand-alone network, MPA will partner M1 and interested companies to trial, develop and deploy new maritime 5G use cases under the MPA Innovation Lab and IMDA 5G Innovation and Ecosystem Development Programme.

d.     Our aim is to achieve full maritime 5G coverage in our anchorages, fairways, terminals, and boarding grounds by middle of 2025.

10.    With Maritime 5G as an enabling infrastructure, we can imagine new possibilities over the next decade.

a.     We will be able to accelerate MarineTech research, development and test new applications that can improve maritime and navigational safety, such as: 

i.     Remote Assisted Pilotage Advisory - where pilots can remotely pilot the ship via a shore-based control centre through real-time video imagery providing situational awareness of the vessel. With this, the pilot does not need to physically board the ship. This not only more efficient and productivitive, it also reduces the risks involved when a pilot transfers between vessels. 

ii.     Maritime Autonomous Surface Ships, or MASS – where companies can develop and test new systems that enable ship-to-ship and ship-to-shore communication. It can also look at autonomous manoeuvres and remote control of ships. Sensors onboard MASS will generate a vast amount of critical data for activities such as collision avoidance and docking, and 5G can provide a secure, high-performance exchange of navigational safety data.

b.     I encourage companies to make good use of our upcoming Maritime 5G infrastructure to develop technologies that improve the safety, productivity, and well-being of our maritime workers.

Building integrated systems that provide a more global and comprehensive picture

11.    Let me now turn to our second “build”, which is we must build systems and networks that integrate individual sensors and data systems to provide a common and comprehensive situation picture for more effective and safer operations.  

12.    Many shipping and ship management companies have used data to analyse and improve ships’ performance such as engine tuning and crew fatigue management. This is not a new area to companies.  

13.    Many companies have also set up vessel operating command and control centres in Singapore to have a better overview of their ship fleet around the world. I’ve visited some of the companies and I’m happy to say that many companies have put in place such systems. What we hope to do is to take one step further and extract even more value from the data. 

14.    At yesterday’s Ferry Exercise, MPA showcased a minimum viable product of their upcoming Integrated Port Operations Command, Control and Communications system, or IPOC system. 

a.      MPA and the Defence Science and Technology Agency, DSTA, are developing this new system to integrate data from 29 existing data sources, covering systems such as MPA Vessel Traffic Information System, MPA Video Hub and Singapore Maritime Data Hub. This removes the need for manual compilation, freeing up more time for active monitoring of our port waters.

b.     With all streams of information placed onto one platform, this will allow for sensemaking and data analytics to quickly detect infringements or unusual developments.  We still need human operators to make judgment calls and important decisions, but the use of technology will augment our human operators to achieve even better outcomes.

c.     This will also enable optimised and timely responses, such as the deployment of response assets or alerting nearby vessels, which will improve safety and management of marine incidents.

d.      A better integrated maritime situation picture will also strengthen collaborations with other agencies such as the Republic of Singapore Navy, Immigration and Checkpoints Authority, and the Police Coast Guard. 

e.    I understand our counterparts are present today. If we can go even further, as a next milestone, I hope we can find a way to collaborate and share data across different regulatory agencies to improve navigational safety for ships through this part of the world.

15.    The IPOC system will be progressively rolled out in phases from 2023 to 2026.  

Building smart and predictive services to extract greater value from our data 

16.    Turning to our third “build”, we must harness technology by building smart and predictive services that can extract greater value from our data for better safety outcomes. 

17.    Users of the Port of Singapore will be familiar with MPA’s digitalPORT@SGTM initiative, which allows users to submit port clearance information to government agencies through a single portal. 

18.    We are rolling out Phase 2 of digitalPORT@SGTM, which includes Just-In-Time marine services.  MPA will also launch the Artificial intelligence-based Active Anchorage Management System (AAMS), in the third quarter of 2023. 

a.     The AAMS fulfils two roles – the smart and optimal allocation of anchorage space to incoming vessels; and the real-time monitoring of all anchorages to enhance safety. 

i.      As our friends in the industry know, many ships pass through our waters, call at our port, and stop at our anchorages. This tool will be useful not only to MPA, but also for users in the industry.

b.     It will tap on three sets of existing data to optimise allocation of the limited anchorage space for any incoming vessel –

i.     First, vessel’s port clearance information submitted to digitalPORT@SGTM before a vessel enters the port, such as the purpose of port call, swing circle, and length of the vessel; 

ii.    Second, the depth of waters in our anchorages through GeoSpaceSea; and  

iii.    Third, live data of the location of vessels in our anchorage to determine the optimal safety distances vis-à-vis other vessels.

c.     With the AAMS, MPA will be able to integrate information in our vessel traffic management operations including weather conditions, tide, and water depth. This will be used to enable the better and safer use of our anchorage space. 

A Stronger Safety Culture Through Technology

19.     I have touched on three areas that we will continue to build on – our three “builds”. While new systems and technology are important for enhancing safety, we must remember that the most important element remains our people. Technology are tools.  The outcomes and results will depend on how effectively we use the tools. 

20.     It is critical to build a strong safety culture amongst our maritime companies and workers and develop good safety habits in all settings.  As I often say to said to our tripartite partners – our unions, companies and employees – this is a collective responsibility. I spoke at a recent event on public transport safety, during which I reminded the audience that we must continue to place emphasis on workplace and operational safety.  We must build on our existing foundations and never allow complacency to set in, because this is a never-ending journey of continuous improvement.   

21.    I am glad we will be launching a video on safe boarding of vessels and a case studies booklet for working in and around water. These two initiatives have been co-developed by MPA, the National Maritime Safety at Sea Council, and the Workplace Safety and Health Council or WSH Council. 

a.     The five-minute video will be screened at Marina South Pier and West Coast Pier to remind maritime shore-based personnel boarding ships at anchorages about good safety practices.

b.     The case studies booklet covers descriptions of 10 incidents, such as transfer to and from vessels, transport via barges, mooring and diving operations. Each incident will be accompanied by lessons learnt and recommendations.

i.      It is important that we learn from past mistakes and not repeat them. It is also important if we can derive useful learning points that can be extrapolated to future areas of work.

ii.     This is a resource that we will keep working on. We welcome input from our workers, our employers and the industry to improve the booklet that was developed by the Ministry of Manpower and the WSH Council, with feedback solicited from members of the WSH Council (Marine Industries) Committee, National Maritime Safety at Sea Council, and the MPA-Harbour Craft Safety Working Group. 

iii.    Both the video and case studies booklet will be made available online as a free resource.


22.    Let me conclude. Ships and their crew form the backbone of global maritime transport and trade. We must continue to innovate and harness technology, not because technology is a silver bullet, but because it is an important tool to augment our workers to achieve better outcomes. We must invest in technology to achieve efficiency gains and also to enhance the safety of our workers. We want to keep our workers safe, so that they can return to their loved ones safely. 

23.    Singapore also has a duty as a hub port and international maritime centre to work with fellow regulators, port operators, maritime companies and unions to continue improving our safety protocols, systems and emergency response, not just for Maritime Singapore but for the international maritime community. 

24.    I hope our participants will be able to share and learn from one another about innovative ways to enhance maritime safety, and to use this event as a platform to catalyse further improvements. 

25.    I wish everyone a fruitful time at this year’s International Safety@Sea Conference. 

26.    Thank you.


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