Speech by Acting Minister For Transport, Mr Chee Hong Tat at the Institution of Engineers Singapore (IES) 57th Annual Dinner

09 Nov 2023Speeches
Mr Dalson Chung, President of the Institution of Engineers Singapore,

Distinguished Guests,

Ladies and Gentlemen,

1.     Good evening. Congratulations to the Institution of Engineers Singapore (IES) on your 57th anniversary! Happy to join everyone this evening to celebrate the achievements and contributions of our engineering community. 

Tribute to the IES and Engineering Community

2.     Since its establishment in 1966, the IES has played an integral role in developing and growing our community of engineers. From the electronic gadgets that we use everyday, to the homes we live in, and to major infrastructure projects like our airports and MRT lines that keep our society moving – all these would not have been possible without the hard work and ingenuity of our engineers and workers. Thank you for your dedication to Singapore, and for building and transforming our nation. 

3.     I am also heartened to see your commitment to the sustainability agenda, with the launch of the IES Green Plan 2030 in January, and the inaugural Sustainability Awards. This is very timely and salient as carbon will become an increasingly binding constraint in our society. When we develop our solutions and growth plans, it is important for us to also develop feasible and commercially viable decarbonisation pathways. I am confident that our best engineering minds can come together with partners from around the world to find appropriate and creative solutions that will allow us to overcome our constraints while still allowing our society to progress and our economy to grow. In fact, if we do it well, there can be new opportunities in the green economy for us to tap on. Our aim is to help Singapore achieve net zero emissions by 2050 while preserving our economic competitiveness.

Decarbonising the Domestic Transport Sector

4. Take for instance our land transport sector, which today accounts for about 15% of Singapore’s total domestic carbon emissions. We need to bring this down significantly, and the best approach to do so is to increase the use of public transport. Compared with driving an internal combustion engine (ICE) vehicle, taking the MRT is a 90% reduction in carbon emissions, while taking an electric bus is a 70% reduction. Mass public transport is how we can get the greatest number of people to their destinations, using the least amount of land space and producing the least amount of carbon emissions. 

5.     We are going to add an additional 100km of rail, which is almost a 40% increase from our current rail network. When our rail expansion is completed in the next decade, 8 in 10 households will be within a 10-minute walk from one of our MRT or LRT stations.

6.     There is also the electrification of our vehicle fleets. Today, if you look at our energy mix – because we mainly use natural gas to produce electricity – the carbon emission from driving an electric car is about half of that from an ICE vehicle. 

7.     Besides vehicle electrification and promoting the use of public transport, we hope to also look at ways to decarbonise our electricity production. Producing electricity in a cleaner way is going to be a key part of Singapore’s energy transition. If we can do this through a combination of importing renewable energy and monitoring trends in other forms of production, including small modular nuclear reactors that other countries are now looking at, all of these would give us different possibilities in the future to move towards a cleaner net zero electricity production energy mix.

8.     Moving on to air and sea transport, we will likewise explore innovations to support the conversion of airside vehicles at our airport and harbour craft in our waters to cleaner energy options. These include the adoption of electric models, implementation of comprehensive landside and seaward charging infrastructure, and the use of alternative cleaner fuels for certain vehicles which do not have viable electric models. We will keep an open mind and welcome all good ideas, and look forward to partnering the engineering community to turn our vision into reality.

Building Sustainable Infrastructure for the Future

9.     Looking further ahead, as we build major infrastructure such as Tuas Port and Changi Airport Terminal 5 to prepare for future growth and maintain our global connectivity and competitiveness, we must ensure that our infrastructure is climate-resilient and resource-efficient.

a.     At Tuas Port, engineering innovations have enabled the reduction of emissions in its construction and operations. 

i.     We have reused recyclable materials as reclamation fill in Phase 1 of the construction, and in the planning of Phase 3 reclamation, the Maritime and Port Authority of Singapore (MPA) and the National Environment Agency (NEA) are exploring using materials excavated from Semakau Landfill as reclamation fill. If viable, this will reduce the sand required for reclamation and also help prolong the lifespan of Semakau Landfill. 

ii.    Operations at Tuas Port are also becoming greener, with the use of electrified equipment such as automated guided vehicles to transport containers, a smart grid management system and the construction of green buildings. 

b. We are also working to automate and digitalise airport operations at Changi Airport. This will require engineering expertise in areas such as autonomous vehicles and robotics. To develop Terminal 5 as a green and sustainable terminal building, we will partner engineers to deploy sustainable solutions such as solar panels, smart building management systems, as well as district cooling combined with thermal energy storage. 

Developing a Strong Engineering Talent Pool

10.    I have shared with you some examples in the transport sector, and there are many other good examples of what we can do beyond this sector, cutting across different domains in our society and economy. Now, what is common in achieving all these different objectives that I have just described? It is the need to develop a strong engineering talent pool. That has been our experience, for example, with the rail system. We have built up the talent pool in the Land Transport Authority, SMRT and SBS Transit, so that the talent can put their hearts and minds into developing good engineering solutions for our rail network. We have to look at how we can continuously attract and grow our core of engineering talent, while ensuring that they are well-equipped with future-ready skills and can continue to come up with innovative solutions to tackle the different challenges.
11.    I would like to commend and thank the IES for its efforts on this front, which include the Engineers Leadership Programme to groom engineering leaders and the IES-Yayasan Mendaki Scholarship Awards to support outstanding students in their pursuit of engineering studies. Congratulations to the two future engineers who will be receiving the scholarship awards this evening! 

12.    I hope that the achievements of our engineers will inspire more young Singaporeans to pursue engineering. We will continue to work with IES and all of you to grow the engineering community from strength to strength. 

Congratulations to the Award Recipients

13.    I would also like to congratulate all recipients of the IES Prestigious Engineering Achievement Awards and the IES Sustainability Awards for their outstanding engineering solutions. 

a.     One of the award winners of the Prestigious Engineering Achievement Awards is the Rifle Range Nature Park by NParks, which used sustainable natural drainage features and hydrology studies to transform a disused quarry into a freshwater wetland, and built an elevated lookout deck using prefabricated materials to minimise biodiversity disruption. This has brought us closer to achieving our vision of a City in Nature. 

b.     Castomize, a medtech start-up and incubatee at Temasek Polytechnic, is one of the recipients of the inaugural Sustainability Awards. They have created orthopaedic casts using 4D-printing technology to revolutionise fracture healing. The casts can be reshaped according to how the bone is healing, allow for greater comfort and easier monitoring, and reduce the need for many disposable bandages and plaster casts. 

c.     I am happy to know that these projects have also been nominated for the ASEAN Outstanding Engineering Achievement Awards. I wish them all the best!

14.    I look forward to more of such cutting-edge solutions that can transform the world we live in, and significantly improve our quality of life.

15.    I would also like to congratulate the following individuals who have been recognised for their pivotal contributions to engineering. 

a.     Prof Yeoh Lean Weng, Chief Sustainability Officer of A*STAR and Emeritus President of IES, will be conferred the title of IES Honorary Fellow for his dedication to IES and extraordinary contributions to the advancement of R&D and sustainable development in Singapore.

b.     Prof Su Guaning, President Emeritus of NTU and Emeritus President of IES, will receive the IES Lifetime Engineering Achievement Award in recognition of his immense contributions to education and the enhancement of Singapore’s defence capabilities.

c.     Congratulations Prof Yeoh and Prof Su! 


16.    On this note, I would like to express my appreciation to all engineers who have been and will continue to be an integral part of Singapore’s development. We will continue to work closely with you to groom the next generation of engineers, and reach new frontiers together. 

17.    Congratulations once again, and have an enjoyable evening ahead. Thank you.

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