Opening Remarks by Senior Minister of State for Transport Dr Amy Khor at the Cities for People – Future Port Cities Session @ World Cities Summit 2024

03 Jun 2024Speeches


Distinguished guests,

Ladies and Gentlemen,

1.     Good afternoon. I am very happy to join you today to discuss a theme that resonates deeply with many of us: The Future of Port Cities.

2.     Singapore has always been associated with our port, dating back to many centuries ago. As our founding Prime Minister Mr Lee Kuan Yew once said, the port is the "raison d’être" of Singapore – the reason for our existence and growth.

3.     From a modest fishing village, Singapore has rapidly transformed into a bustling free port. Our strategic location at the crossroads of major maritime trade routes has been pivotal in shaping Singapore's economic and cultural landscape and will continue to play an indispensable role in charting our future course.

Our Port Heritage

4.     The Singapore River was the lifeblood of our early commerce. The riverbanks were home to a melting pot of cultures, each contributing to the rich tapestry of our society. The port thus became not just a hub for goods, but a meeting point for people, ideas, and cultures.

5.     Vibrant commercial hubs, such as Clarke Quay and Boat Quay, facilitated the growth of the surrounding areas, leading to the establishment of key districts essential for Singapore's development.

6.     For instance, the thriving trade and commerce along the Singapore River spurred the growth of Singapore’s financial and civic districts. The financial district, centred around Raffles Place, emerged as the commercial heart of Singapore, attracting banks, trading companies and insurance firms. This area developed into a key financial hub in Asia, a status it continues to hold today.

7.     The civic district, encompassing landmarks such as the Old Parliament House and the Victoria Theatre and Concert Hall, became the administrative and cultural centre of the city. These developments laid the foundation for Singapore's transformation into a modern metropolis.

8.     To celebrate and preserve our heritage, we have designed a 2.5-hour Maritime Heritage Trail that guides locals and visitors through significant maritime historical sites. These trails connect past and present, ensuring that our rich history is remembered and appreciated.

Growth of the Port of Singapore

9.     Singapore’s journey from a colonial trading post did not end there. In 1972, the development of Tanjong Pagar Terminal, Southeast Asia’s first container terminal, marked the advent of containerisation. This transformed shipping as we knew it. Since then, the Port of Singapore has become the world’s busiest transhipment hub and a leading international maritime centre.

10.    Last year, the Port of Singapore’s vessel arrival tonnage sailed past three billion Gross Tonnage for the first time. This means we welcomed ships of all types – container ships, bulk carriers, tankers and more, with a total volume equivalent to about 50 million Merlion statues! Our container throughput also reached a new high of 39.0 million twenty-foot equivalent units (TEUs).

11.    But we are not stopping there. To cater for future demand, we are developing Tuas Port, which is designed to handle 65 million TEUs annually, about 50% more capacity than our current terminals.

12.    The new Tuas Port will be part of the Tuas industrial ecosystem and the western industrial region, which will form a vibrant network of businesses. The maritime ecosystem also extends beyond the Tuas region to a vast array of maritime companies and businesses including international shipping groups, shipbroking firms, legal practices, and so on. As the port grows, so too will these services and sectors, creating more jobs and driving growth.

13.    The port connects Singapore to the world, and the world to Singapore. It provides us access to imports like food and other necessities, vehicles, electronics and clothes. Our connectivity is also a key reason businesses set up here, operating out of Singapore to reach the region.

14.    In times of crisis, the Port of Singapore plays an essential role in enabling and supporting access to global supply chains.

15.    Our port city heritage is hence not just about the convergence of diverse cultures, but also an exemplar of Singapore’s innovation, resilience and tenacity through the years.

Tuas Port: A Next Generation Port

16.    Today, and moving into the future, our Tuas Port will feature cutting-edge technology, including automated guided vehicles controlled by smart digital systems to transport containers within the port. This determination to continuously innovate and develop is what links us to our unique identity as a port city.

17.    As we continue to build our port, we remain deeply committed to environmental sustainability and preserving our natural heritage.

18.    We have embraced a waste circularity approach during land reclamation through the large-scale reuse of dredged materials and excavated materials from land construction. We have also completed the relocation of 2,300 hard coral colonies from Sultan Shoal to protect them from the impact of the Tuas Port development.

Decarbonisation and Digitalisation in the Future of the Maritime Industry

19.    Decarbonisation and digitalisation will also play an integral part in our development as a port city. The maritime sector provides fertile ground to pilot ideas and achieve new breakthroughs on both these fronts.

20.    To reach the international shipping community’s net zero goals, we are preparing our port for a multi-fuel future and working with industry to develop local value chains for methanol and ammonia. In the last one year, we have also supported three methanol bunkering trials, including a simultaneous operation of methanol bunkering and cargo operations at Tuas Port, and two ammonia fuel trials in our port waters.  

21.    Our partnerships with like-minded ports and partners through Green and Digital Shipping Corridors will provide further opportunities for trials of new technologies and fuels. These trials help establish common procedures and safety standards, paving the way for the smooth adoption of future fuels.

22.    Singapore’s maritime industry is also embracing digitalisation by providing testbeds for piloting maritime solutions. To facilitate this, we have introduced regulatory sandboxes and key enablers of digital connectivity, such as maritime 5G. We are also partnering industry leaders to explore new maritime applications and use of emerging technologies, such as AI.

23.    A few days ago, I spoke at the launch of the annual Smart Port Challenge, a platform which seeks to encourage startups to develop innovative solutions to address key challenges faced by the maritime industry.  

24.    Startups are a critical component of a vibrant MarineTech ecosystem and drive ground-up innovation. Many of them, including those that participated in the Smart Port Challenge, have successfully developed practical solutions for the maritime industry. In fact, many of them have scaled up and commercialised. Some of them were even bought over by other companies.


25.    Singapore's evolution as a port city is a story of progress, resilience, and innovation. Our port has been and will remain a cornerstone of our development, and provide abundant opportunities to explore new frontiers, fostering connectivity and facilitating international trade.

26.    As we look to the future, the maritime industry will continue to be crucial in the global movement of goods, and Port Cities play a key role in this. To stay relevant and effective, Port Cities must evolve and embrace digitalisation to enhance productivity and efficiency, while also decarbonising to meet our net zero ambitions.

27.    Over the course of the World Cities Summit, I encourage all of us to share insights, forge new partnerships and explore innovative solutions that will shape our future as port cities.

28.    I wish you all a fruitful and inspiring session today. Thank you.


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