Opening Remarks by Mr S Iswaran, Minister for Transport and Minister-In-Charge of Trade Relations, at the Launch of the “50 Years of our Container Shipping Journey Exhibition”

04 Aug 2022Speeches

Ladies and Gentlemen,

1.     Good afternoon. I am very happy to join you today at the launch of this exhibition commemorating the 50th anniversary of the commencement of Singapore’s container shipping journey. 

Brief History of Containerisation

2.     5 decades ago, we officially opened the first container terminal in Southeast Asia at Tanjong Pagar and welcomed the container vessel, the MV Nihon, carrying 300 containers on her maiden trip from Rotterdam to Singapore. 

3.     As we can all appreciate, it was a far cry from our port today. When we decided to build the first container terminal in Southeast Asia in 1966, it was unheard of in the region. Goods at that time were predominantly handled through break bulk shipping, where they were loaded and unloaded manually from vessels in gunny sacks, wooden crates and boxes of different sizes. No container ship sailed through the region, and not a single shipping line had committed to build container ships to transport goods between Europe and the Far East. In short, at that time, the prospects for container shipping were uncertain.

4.     However, it was this pivotal decision that allowed us to position Singapore at the vanguard of innovation, ride the winds of change, and chart our path towards becoming a global maritime hub. The rest, as they say, is history.  

5.     Today, ships transport thousands of containers through our port, and the largest container ship can carry up to 24,000 TEUs. Singapore has is the world’s busiest transhipment hub port, and we are a top maritime capital; and our port handled a record of 37.5 million twenty-foot-equivalent containers in 2021, compared to the first million we handled in 1982. 

6.     It was the foresight and gumption of our pioneers and leaders then, that enabled Singapore to seize the opportunity created by container shipping when it globalised in the 1980s; and it was the strong bonds of trust among our industry partners and unions that enabled our maritime sector to grow and thrive, weathering the ups and downs of the industry. Many of them are here today, and I would like to take this opportunity to express my deepest appreciation to all our partners, from the unions and the industry, and also from our education institutions, who have all played a part in this journey to becoming a global maritime centre. Thank you very much for your support. 

7.     Our history also holds lessons for our future. In particular, we must have the courage and adaptability to embrace change and invest for the future. And that is why we will be consolidating our port operations at Tuas Port. 

8.     It will be the world’s largest automated port with a container handling capacity of 65 million TEUs, about 50% more capacity than our current port terminals. This will enable us to cater to the growth in container shipping and maintain our attractiveness and value proposition to international shipping lines and the world.


9.     And even as we set our sights on the next bound of growth, we want our young people to join us with their energy, creativity, knowledge and passion to take us to the next level. 

10.    It is an exciting time to join Maritime Singapore which offers interesting job prospects and careers. As digitalisation and sustainability gain momentum globally, it opens up opportunities in areas such as alternative fuels, carbon accounting and green financing. Traditional maritime jobs like seafarers and port operation managers will continue to be needed, but there will also be demand for new careers in software engineering, supply chain management and data analytics. 

11.    I would like to encourage all the students here to visit the Maritime Singapore Connect career portal to appreciate and more importantly to apply for the maritime jobs that are available. Currently, there are about 100 jobs listed from more than 40 companies across commercial, operations, corporate and technology roles. And we are actively engaging employers to post even more job opportunities.

12.    The government, our industry partners, and unions and Institutions of Higher Learning are also working together to groom talent and support continual learning in the maritime industry. Scholarships such as the MaritimeONE Scholarship supports students to embark on an undergraduate degree or diploma in a maritime-related course.

13.    Ms Song Pei Wei, who is an alumnus of Singapore Polytechnic, is one such recipient. She was awarded the MaritimeONE Scholarship for her diploma in Maritime Business by the Singapore Maritime Foundation in 2014 and subsequently, the MaritimeOne Scholarship by PSA in 2017 to pursue a Bachelor of Science in Maritime Studies at the Nanyang Technological University. Pei Wei is now working in PSA as a Senior Operations Executive, responsible for ensuring the smooth running of the port and cargo operations.

14.    There are many others like Pei Wei who have benefitted from these scholarships and who have then embarked on meaningful maritime careers. Last year, the industry collectively offered more than S$1.1 million worth of scholarships to fund the tertiary studies of 46 students. For those who are pursuing a seafaring career, there is also the Tripartite Maritime Scholarship to support students at the Singapore Maritime Academy, and the Sail Milestone Achievement Programme, or SailMAP, which provides seafarers with up to $50,000 when they attain key seafaring career milestones.  

15.    There are also many training courses, internships, and local and overseas attachment opportunities available for students so that they can gain exposure to the wide range of maritime careers. Mr Fazwin Bin Amir, an alumnus of Ngee Ann Polytechnic (NP), graduated from NP with a diploma in Marine & Offshore Technology and gained several years of working experience in the marine and offshore industry. He then embarked on a Bachelor of Science in Maritime Studies at NTU in 2016. He was subsequently awarded the MPA Global Internship Award in 2019, where he interned with ANL Singapore Pte Ltd and had an overseas stint in its Australian Office.

16.     Fazwin is currently working as a Tanker Operator in MOL Chemical Tankers where he manages chemical tanker vessels to optimise resource allocation and improve their operational efficiency. So, there are many opportunities and exciting possibilities – scholarships, internships and many other prospects for our students. You just have to make the first move and we will support you throughout your journey in the maritime industry and provide ample opportunities for learning, development and growth.


17.     If I may conclude, Maritime Singapore as we all know has come a long way because of the vision and hard work of our pioneers.  What we want to do now, is to bring in a younger generation of Singaporeans so that they can build on the legacy and take us to even greater heights.

18.    To our students, I would first like to encourage you to be inspired by our past and the journey we have come on so far. I think this exhibition will give you a keen insight into the journey, the challenges and how we overcome them. Second, I hope you look to the future and appreciate the exciting possibilities that the maritime sector has to offer. Finally, and certainly not the least, take the opportunity to learn from the many industry players and leaders who are present here, because they, more than anyone else, would be able to give you a first-hand feel of what it is to be in the maritime sector and the kind of possibilities that you can look forward to. We look forward to seeing you join and contribute your talents in this dynamic, fast-growing and exciting industry. 

19.    I wish all of you all the very best. Thank you.


You may also like