Speech by Senior Minister of State for Transport, Mr Chee Hong Tat at the MaritimeONE Scholarship Awards Ceremony

31 Aug 2022Speeches
Mr Hor Weng Yew, Chairman, Singapore Maritime Foundation, 

Mr Niam Chiang Meng, Chairman, Maritime and Port Authority of Singapore, 

Sister Mary Liew, President of NTUC, and General Secretary of Singapore Maritime Officers’ Union 

Ms Caroline Yang, President of the Singapore Shipping Association, 

Corporate Leaders from our Sponsoring Enterprises, 

Scholarship recipients, 

Parents and family members, 

1.     Good evening. Tonight is a very happy occasion. 

2.     I would like to begin by congratulating the 66 MaritimeONE and Tripartite Maritime scholarship (TMSS) recipients, and your loved ones; and extending a warm welcome to you on behalf of the maritime community! Glad to have you on board as new members of our Maritime Singapore family. 

3.     I would also like to express my appreciation to the parents, grandparents, teachers, and mentors who have nurtured, supported, and inspired our scholars to excel and to reach this milestone in your young lives. 

Opportunities afforded by the MaritimeONE and Tripartite Maritime Scholarship 

4.     To our scholars, you are embarking on an exciting journey into a vibrant, innovative and globally-connected industry. Trends such as digitalisation and environmental sustainability have gained momentum in recent years, opening new opportunities in areas such as voyage optimisation, cyber security, green financing, and alternative fuel operations. Just to name some of the many exciting areas and opportunities. 

5.     Some of these trends are converging to form a new maritime technology cluster (or MarineTech), an emerging pillar of growth. Through initiatives such as PIER71 and Maritime Digitalisation Playbook, Singapore is now globally recognised as a leading city in maritime technology by the global industry. 

6.     Our job is not done. We still have much more we can and want to achieve in this area, to push new boundaries and reach new frontiers to create a better and more sustainable future for the maritime industry. 

7.     And you are going to be part of this growth journey. As a MaritimeONE scholar, you will be invited to attend maritime conferences, networking sessions, industry gatherings and to take on internships to gain deeper insight into the industry and to understand the wide range of career choices available. You will also be matched with industry mentors, who will guide and advise you on education and career matters. Let me share an example from previous batches of scholars. 

a.     Mr Shahril Zainuddin received the MaritimeONE scholarship in 2009 and is now an Operations Lead in Norden, a Danish dry bulk and tanker operator. He believes life will be more fulfilling if he could make a positive impact through mentoring and therefore, in the spirit of “paying it forward”, he has been mentoring trainees in Norden over the past few years – one of whom is Michelle Lee, a 2019 MaritimeONE scholar. Michelle has performed well under Shahril’s guidance and is now posted to the Norden’s HQ in Copenhagen as an Operations Manager. 

b.     Another example is Mr Cheng Zheng Yang, whom you just saw in the video played earlier. Zheng Yang received the MaritimeONE scholarship in 2016 and graduated in Economics with a second major in Analytics from Singapore Management University in 2018. He is currently working as a Maritime Data Analyst at Torvald Klaveness. Zheng Yang actively works with the SMF to share his experience on how data science is being applied to make shipping more sustainable at career fairs and at campus talks. He also volunteered his time to mentor students participating in SMF’s case competitions. 

8.     As a TMSS scholar, you will embark on a rewarding seafaring career where you will get to sail the seven seas. Along the way you will gain valuable skills and have opportunities to rise through the ranks to become a captain or chief engineer. You will play a critical role in keeping global supply chains flowing, including essential goods and products that improve the lives of many people around the world. Back onshore, your seafaring experience would set a strong foundation for you to lead in specialised roles such as marine and technical superintendents.

a.     For example, Captain Muhammad Hisyam Bin Haron was a recipient of the TMSS scholarship 2007 from Pacific Carriers Limited (PCL). With support from tripartite partners, Hisyam attained his Certificate of Competency Class 1 Deck Officer in 2017, became a ship master, and recently came back onshore to take on the role of marine superintendent at PCL. He now oversees a fleet of 7 dry bulk and multi-purpose vessels on matters such as safety and regulatory compliance. 

9.     I hope stories like these would inspire a new generation of scholars to take up the challenge, continue to transform the maritime sector but also to learn from what your seniors have done, to pay it forward and to give back and help future batches. Let me give you a few more examples. 

a.     We have Ms Sardonna Ng. She is a national hockey player and her interest in maritime was sparked by the sector’s close linkage to international trade and the opportunities to work with people from different countries. Sardonna will be reading Maritime Studies at the Nanyang Technological University with MaritimeONE scholarship from Bernhard Schulte. She aspires to be part of the maritime sector’s green transition by researching on alternative marine fuels that will reduce shipping’s carbon emissions. This is good for business and good for the environment. Help the company to do well and also to do good. 

b.     We also have Ms Jade Neo, a recipient of the Tripartite Maritime Scholarship with OSM Ship Management. Jade is currently pursuing the Diploma in Nautical Studies with the Singapore Maritime Academy at Singapore Polytechnic. Her aim is to captain a ship someday as she was inspired by the stories told by a close family friend who is a ship captain as well. She is also one of the 18 MaritimeSG Youth Ambassadors, who were appointed in May this year, and has been reaching out to other youth through events and social media to share about the maritime sector and the fulfilling careers it offers. All the best Jade – keep sailing and learning, and I look forward to seeing you become Captain of a vessel in future. 

10.    I applaud Sardonna and Jade’s passion and strong sense of adventure, and hope they will one day join the ranks of our outstanding women leaders in the maritime community, such as Sister Mary Liew and Ms Caroline Yang. 

11.    And of course, our outgoing CE of MPA, Ms Quah Ley Hoon. She may be leaving the maritime industry, but we know she will always remain a friend of Maritime Singapore and we can continue to count on her support. In a Facebook post earlier this month, I said this: 

a.     Ley Hoon has been instrumental in navigating MPA through Covid-19, while pressing on with the development and transformation of Maritime Singapore to grow our hub port and international maritime centre through digitalisation and decarbonisation. She is a well-respected leader by the industry and unions, and the international maritime community. 

b.     MPA colleagues and I have enjoyed working with her. I am sure many friends from the industry would share this sentiment too. 

c.     Ley Hoon is a very capable officer with good ideas and can get things done, and a trustworthy leader with a good heart and strong values. She is someone I will be happy to have on my team anytime. 

d.     And if I may add, someone I will be honoured to call my friend. 

e.     So, Ley Hoon, we wish you all the best as you set sail on your future endeavours. We will miss you. 

f.     I am also happy to introduce to all of you and to welcome Mr Teo Eng Dih to the Maritime Singapore family. Eng Dih, prior to joining the MPA, was serving as Deputy Secretary at the Ministry of Defence, and he will be taking over from Ley Hoon as CE/MPA, and I am confident he will continue to steer the ship well. 

Support for Maritime Talent Attraction and Development 

12.    Ladies and gentlemen, this year, we are presenting 54 MaritimeONE Scholarships worth about $1.7 million and 12 Tripartite Maritime Scholarships worth close to $1 million. This is the highest combined number and value of scholarships we have awarded in a year since the inaugural Scholarship Awards Ceremony in 2007. 

13.    This sizeable investment demonstrates the importance the industry places on talent development, and the collective desire to bring new energy and dynamism to drive transformation in the maritime sector. I am heartened by and would l like to thank the longstanding and strong support from the industry and unions for working with us to provide these scholarships, and we continue to encourage more maritime companies and organisations to join us and to come onboard. 

Continual Learning for Talent Attraction and Development 

14.    Apart from scholarships, we will continue to expand the diversity of maritime courses available, enabling more people, including those who are in mid career, to learn about the maritime industry and hopefully some of them can join the maritime sector. I believe this is one way to broadening the maritime talent pipeline – students coming through our scholarships, and mid-career professionals who join us halfway. 

15.    I am pleased to announce that the Singapore University of Social Science (SUSS) will be launching a new Minor in Maritime Management, which will improve access and availability of maritime certifications and qualifications. Funded by Singapore Maritime Institute and supported by MPA, the new programme will offer SUSS students, especially those in related disciplines like logistics and supply chain management, an opportunity to learn about maritime business management, port management and technology, and shipping finance. 

16.    Beyond talent attraction, talent development is equally important. We want to continue to support lifelong learning in the maritime industry. We used to say in NTUC, when I was part of NTUC, lifelong learning for lifelong employment. 

a.     For our seafarers, you will be supported as you progress in your career at sea and attain higher levels of competency. The Sail Milestone Achievement Programme, or SailMAP, will provide seafarers with up to $50,000 upon attaining key seafaring career milestones. The incentive payments will help to support your income when you are not sailing, so that you can focus on upgrading your seafaring skills and knowledge. I think this is an important part of providing support for our seafarers to stay the course. 

b.     The Maritime Cluster Fund also provides co-funding support for courses that equip you with new skills and knowledge through your career. 

17.    Apart from training courses, there will be opportunities to grow your maritime careers through structured overseas job rotations and attachments. This will help you gain a good understanding of global supply chains and develop professional networks with foreign partners. I want to stress this because maritime is a globally connected industry. We need to have people who are comfortable working across cultures, be familiar with other markets. So, I would like to encourage both our scholars and also our existing workers in our sector, if your company offers you opportunity to go for an overseas rotation or an exchange programme, go for it. It is good for you, it is good for the company, it would also widen your exposure, increase your chances of having career progression in future.

a.     MPA has been offering programmes such as the Global Talent Programme and Overseas Attachment Scheme to encourage companies to send their local employees overseas for exposure and training. I hope these programmes will be well utilised as this is an area which we want to invest in. If we end up not having enough funds, that is a happy problem that we can solve. 

Importance of Keeping Our Maritime Hub Open to Top Foreign Talent 

18.    As we increase our investments in grooming local talents, our maritime hub must remain open to foreign professionals, who complement our local workforce to grow the sector and create more opportunities and good jobs for Singaporeans. 

19.    My colleagues and I have reiterated this position in our discussions with industry leaders and also in Parliament, where we stressed that Singapore will remain open and welcoming to international talents; and what we want to achieve is a good complement of local and international talents to grow the sector and enlarge the pie, so there is more for everyone to share. This is not a zero-sum game or a win-lose arrangement. We can achieve win-win through growth and expansion. If we can achieve growth, and expand opportunities, we can create more good jobs, we can have a win-win for the sector and for our workers. This is something very close to our hearts and in the labour movement as we believe the best way to help our workers – pursue growth, create better jobs, create more opportunities for Singaporeans. 

20.    To further affirm this position, the Minister of Manpower (Dr Tan See Leng) has recently announced targeted enhancements to our work pass framework, such as the Overseas Networks and Expertise Pass for attracting top global talent. The purpose is to attract top talent to come to Singapore. In the process of doing that, benefit our local workers and our companies. 

21.    Our end in mind is to provide more opportunities and good jobs for Singaporeans by growing our hub port and international maritime centre, and attracting more investments and bringing more activities to Singapore. That is what a vibrant hub is all about – a place where investment, talent, and ideas converge. 

22.    I encourage maritime companies to tap on these schemes to bring in the specialist talent from around the world so that our maritime ecosystem will benefit from new opportunities that come with expanded business networks and sharing of expertise. And please continue to work with MPA, SMF, and our unions to invest in attracting and developing local talent, as the two pillars (local talents and international talents) need to go together to achieve a good and sustainable outcome. They reinforce each other. 


23.    Let me conclude with a message to our scholars. As you embark on your education journey, I encourage you to keep an open mind, be curious, and be willing to step out of your comfort zones and try something different, including experiences which will give you valuable international exposure. And when you return, pay it forward by grooming the next generation of maritime leaders in various capacities. In fact, several past MaritimeONE scholars have volunteered to help with this event tonight and I would like to thank you all for taking time off your weekday evening for this. 

24.    The story I want to share with all of you is something that I saw when I visited the Summer Palace in Beijing in 2019. There was a stone boat in a very beautiful lake, built by Emperor Qianlong. He hoped the Qing Dynasty would be like the stone boat – unshakeable and unsinkable. Unfortunately, it is also un-sailable. 

25.     When we build ships, it is not to anchor them in the harbour. It is to sail out to the oceans so that we can reach new lands and to discover new things. But along the way, there will be storms. You have to watch out for bad weather and hone your navigational skills. There will be risks as well. But if you just park your vessel in the harbour all the time, it will be like a stone boat – very safe, unsinkable, but it is not going to go anywhere.

26.     I want to share this story with all our scholars to encourage you that sometimes you have to take some calculated risks in life, leave your comfort zone, and be prepared for some failures along the way as you venture into unchartered waters.

27.     I wish all of you success in your studies and maritime careers, and I hope you can join us to write the next chapter of Singapore’s maritime growth story.

28.     Thank you.

You may also like