Welcome Address by Minister for Transport Mr S Iswaran at the 2nd International Maritime Organization (IMO)-Singapore Future of Shipping Conference

06 Apr 2022Speeches

Singapore as a standards-setter, bridge-builder, and advocate for inclusivity in maritime decarbonisation

Ladies and gentlemen,

1.   I am pleased to join all of you for the 2nd IMO-Singapore Future of Shipping Conference. Climate change is a defining challenge of our times. Its impact on lives and livelihoods, are already being felt around the world. It is a global emergency that calls for urgent, resolute and collective action global emergency.  

2.   The United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP26) held in Glasgow last year issued a clarion call for greater ambition and action. Today, international shipping accounts for about 3% of global greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions currently; it will be even higher if we fail to act decisively to decarbonise. 

The IMO’s decarbonisation agenda

3.   Decarbonising shipping requires the individual and collective efforts of the entire maritime sector – governments, industry, research bodies, and many other stakeholders. The IMO plays a vital role in galvanising the maritime community to tackle this shared challenge. 

4.   This year, discussions will begin at the IMO’s Marine Environment Protection Committee (MEPC) to strengthen the Initial Strategy on the Reduction of GHG Emissions from Ships, including the long-term targets for international shipping. (The IMO adopted an Initial Strategy in 2018, which included targets for international shipping to reduce carbon intensity by at least 40% by 2030, and to at least halve total GHG emissions by 2050, both from 2008 levels.)

5.   Concurrently, the MEPC will discuss mid- and long-term measures for the reduction of GHG emissions from ships. This will include potential market-based measures (MBMs), which can give the right price signals to encourage the uptake of greener fuels and technologies. An ambitious yet pragmatic outcome will catalyse IMO Member States and industry to embark on the concerted endeavour needed to green international shipping. 

Singapore’s decarbonisation agenda

6.   As a global hub port and international maritime centre, Singapore is resolutely committed to do our part. Last month, I launched the Maritime Singapore Decarbonisation Blueprint: Working Towards 2050, which was put together after extensive consultations with industry stakeholders. 

7.   The Blueprint articulates Maritime Singapore’s commitments under the United Nations’ 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, the Paris Agreement and the IMO’s Initial Strategy. On the international front, Singapore will actively contribute to advancing strong and inclusive international shipping climate action. We will do our best to be a standards-setter, bridge-builder, and advocate for inclusivity.

Setting standards for maritime decarbonisation

8.   First, Singapore joins standards-setters around the globe to support the use of low- and zero-carbon fuels. As our fleet of domestic harbour craft transits to use lower-carbon solutions, we are working with industry to develop standards for drop-in biofuel blends to enable widespread adoption. To encourage this transition, we will waive port dues for new low- and zero-carbon-fuelled harbour craft for five years, from the date of their registration. 

9.   For international shipping, we are preparing for a multi-fuel transition. Singapore is partnering fellow port authorities, maritime administrations, and the industry to develop harmonised standards to safely bunker alternative fuels. For example, Singapore co-founded the Future Fuels Port Network together with Port of Rotterdam Authority and the Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism of Japan. We are also a member of the multi-stakeholder Zero-Emission Shipping Mission.

10.  Last year, Singapore launched the Global Centre for Maritime Decarbonisation (GCMD) with six industry partners. The Centre is developing, trialling, and shaping the standards needed to deploy low- and zero-carbon fuels and solutions.

11.  Setting standards has enabled us to move quickly to trial and deploy alternative fuels. For LNG, with standards and infrastructure in place, we conducted 24 ship-to-ship LNG bunkering operations last year. With our second LNG bunker tanker set to be delivered by the end of the year, we will be able to handle up to 200 ship-to-ship bunkering operations per year. About 16,000 metric tonnes of biofuel blends have been supplied in Singapore to 10 vessels thus far under various trials. The domestic biofuel standards we are developing could also complement those for international shipping. 

12.  For ammonia, GCMD recently awarded a study to define safety guidelines and operational envelopes for ammonia bunkering to a consortium led by DNV. In addition, Singapore is involved in various joint industry projects to trial ammonia-fuelled vessels in the coming years. We also offer port dues concessions to vessels using greener fuels and technologies that call at our port via the Green Port Programme. We will extend port dues concessions beyond vessels using LNG, to include vessels using low- and zero-carbon fuels. Vessels that exceed the IMO’s Energy Efficiency Design Index (EEDI) Phase 3 requirements by 10% or more will also enjoy concessions.

13.  As a reputable quality flag, the Singapore Registry of Ships (SRS) is committed to reducing emissions. Last year, we launched the SRS Green Notation to recognise Singapore-registered ships that exceed the IMO’s EEDI Phase 3 requirements by 10% or more, as well as ships adopting engines that use low- and zero-carbon fuels. We will align our Green Ship Programme to offer such ships rebates on their registration fee and annual tonnage tax.

14.  We will continue to offer technical guidance and support to industry partners and ship owners to adopt green fuels and technologies. These efforts will support the IMO’s efforts to develop robust life cycle emissions guidelines for alternative fuels and prepare an implementation programme to guide Member States as they execute the Initial Strategy. 

Building bridges between stakeholders

15.  Second, Singapore aims to play a bridge-building role to forge consensus on maritime decarbonisation. Singapore actively shares expertise in discussions and research at the IMO on GHG matters and participates constructively in the deliberations of the MEPC and the Intersessional Working Group on GHG on mid- and long-term measures.

16.  To encourage decarbonisation efforts in the short term, we co-sponsored the industry’s proposal at the MEPC to establish an International Maritime Research and Development Board financed through mandatory contributions of US$2 per tonne of marine fuel consumed. This would create urgently needed funds to make low- and zero-carbon solutions commercially viable, while supporting capacity building for developing countries’ climate action.

17.  Singapore supports global MBMs that incentivise the transition to greener shipping, while addressing the disproportionate impact on States, especially developing countries. In particular, Singapore supports a global carbon levy on international shipping. This will provide international shipping companies with greater certainty, as well as clear price signals. Most importantly, a unified, global scheme will remove the regulatory costs and complexity of unilateral regulations imposed by countries or regions. 

18.  Nevertheless, Singapore remains open to exploring alternative proposals, and will continue to engage constructively at the IMO and facilitate exchanges, such as co-organising “The Future of Shipping” conferences. Today’s Conference will advance discussions on catalysing funds for the development and uptake of low- or zero- carbon solutions.

19.  Today’s conversations take on an added salience, as Singapore hopes to outline the key learning points from this Conference for discussion at the upcoming IMO Council meeting in July 2022, (to further catalyse action in reducing emissions from international shipping).

20.  Green financing is crucial to maritime decarbonisation. As Singapore develops its capabilities in green financing, we will also support first-mover companies that are keen to do more, such as carbon accounting and exploring carbon credit exchanges.

Advocating inclusive climate action

21.  Third, Singapore is a firm advocate of inclusive climate action. To ensure that the transition is inclusive for all, technical cooperation and capacity building are needed. To support the implementation of the Initial Strategy in an inclusive manner, Singapore pledged US$100,000 last year to the IMO GHG Technical Co-operation Trust Fund.

22.  Last year, the IMO and Singapore launched the NextGEN virtual ecosystem, where “GEN” stands for Green and Efficient Navigation. NextGEN aims to catalyse the sharing of ideas and stakeholder collaboration for inclusive maritime decarbonisation. After a year, NextGEN now has over 200 project contributions in the pipeline from over 500 partners. Having built this strong base of data, stakeholders, and shared ideas, it is time to identify and implement tangible solutions.

23.  I am therefore pleased to announce the launch of the NextGEN Connect initiative, which invites different stakeholders to propose solutions for inclusive maritime decarbonisation. This Call for Proposals will be open to the industry, academia and global research centres. We hope to see proposals to trial action plans to reduce GHG emissions along specific routes in the Asia Pacific region, in an equitable and inclusive manner. Successful proposals, once proven in trials, could then be implemented on a wider scale along other routes. 

24.  Today’s Conference will also see the launch of the IMO Coordinated Actions to Reduce Emissions from Shipping, or IMO CARES. This initiative brings stakeholders together to accelerate the demonstration, deployment, and uptake of green technologies in developing regions, with the support of interested local industry partners. Secretary-General Kitack will elaborate more on this. 


25.  The maritime industry is in essence a global enterprise. This is reflected in the many challenges we must address together, and the many international collaborations we have embarked on. I add my voice to the call for the maritime community to sustain this spirit of cooperation in tackling the global challenge of climate change as we chart the future of shipping. Thank you. 


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