In Parliament

Speech by Senior Minister of State for Transport Mr Chee Hong Tat at the Ministry of Transport Committee of Supply Debate 2023

03 Mar 2023In Parliament

Public Transport 

1.     Sir, I will first address cuts by members on public transport. 

2.     Mr Faisal Manap asked about bus services in Kaki Bukit. 

3.     On bus services 137 and 137A, LTA introduced service 137A in 2019 to provide more trips during the morning peak. This reduced the headway from 15 minutes, which is within Bus Contracting Model standards, to a maximum of 10 minutes during the morning peak.  Some of the headways are within 5 minutes. Commuters can also use the MyTransport app to estimate bus arrival timings and further reduce their waiting times at the bus stop. In January 2023, the average heaviest one-hour loading for Service 137 at the bus stops before the Bedok North station was 58 per cent, which is within acceptable levels. However, on a few days in January 2023, the operator reduced two trips for Service 137A due to manpower shortages and this resulted in the higher loading levels which Mr Faisal described. These trips have been restored, and the situation has improved. I want to assure Mr Faisal that LTA will continue to monitor and we will introduce additional bus trips if necessary to meet higher commuter demand during peak periods.

4.     The second issue was on ‘Townlink feeder services’. This was the previous name used before the Bus Contracting Model was introduced in 2016. We now refer to such arrangements as “intra-town feeder services”, where feeder services would travel around the town, usually in two loops from the bus interchange.  

5.     There are trade-offs to run such services, which is why they are no longer introduced for new routes. First, these services often ply a much longer route, compared to a conventional hub-and-spoke model with shorter feeder services connecting different parts of the town to key transport nodes. The bus timings are therefore subject to more variability along the journey, which may lead to reduced reliability and longer waiting times for commuters. About 10 per cent of commuters use intra-town feeder services to travel to another part of the town. The large majority of commuters use them to connect to the MRT and other bus services at key transport nodes.  This means that their commuting needs will be better served with a hub-and-spoke model instead of using intra-town feeder services.  The hub-and-spoke model is also more flexible in meeting new demand, for example when a new BTO estate is constructed within the town.  

6.     Mr Gan Thiam Poh asked about City Direct Services. 

7.     For City Direct Service 671 from Sengkang to Central Business District, ridership has been increasing as more residents move into the new BTO blocks at Sengkang West. I am happy to share with Mr Gan that LTA will add an additional trip during the morning peak in the second quarter of this year.

8.     Ms Yeo Wan Ling asked for an update on the transport options for our workers at Tuas Port. There is currently one public bus service from Tuas West Road MRT station to Tuas Port. PSA also operates shuttle services for its staff between Tuas Port and about 50 locations across Singapore.

9.     MPA will form a tripartite committee with government agencies, industry partners and unions to discuss and jointly propose practical solutions to improve accessibility to Tuas Port.

Maritime Singapore

10.    Sir, let me now speak about Maritime Singapore. 

11.    Like waves in the ocean, the global maritime sector has experienced ups and downs over the years.  We remain optimistic about the medium to longer-term outlook for Maritime Singapore, which will be boosted by the development of Tuas Port and the growth of our International Maritime Centre. 

12.    However, there are driving forces we need to prepare for. Governments and companies are reconfiguring supply chains to enhance resilience. Port operators and shipping lines are integrating adjacent functions and tapping on digitalisation and technology.  

13.    There is also an increased emphasis on environmental sustainability. The International Maritime Organization (IMO) could announce a higher level of ambition to reduce greenhouse gas emissions later this year. Corporates and individuals are becoming more conscious of their carbon footprint.

14.    Mr Raj Joshua Thomas filed a cut on how we will ensure the relevance and competitiveness of our maritime sector. We plan to do so in three ways: 1) Enhancing Digitalisation, 2) Improving Sustainability, and 3) Streamlining Business Costs.

Enhancing Digitalisation 

15.    Mr Saktiandi Supaat asked for an update on our digitalisation plans. 

16.    We are on track to provide full 5G coverage in our anchorages, fairways, terminals and boarding grounds by mid-2025. 12 maritime 5G base stations will be set up, of which three will be ready by 2023 to support the testing and development of new applications, such as remote pilotage and digital bunkering.

17.    MPA will launch its Next Generation Vessel Traffic Management System in 2025. This uses data analytics and machine learning to enable our port to safely handle more complex and numerous vessel movements. We will launch a tender to develop the system prototype this year, for testing in a real-time operating environment.

18.    Mr Saktiandi also asked about digitalOCEANSTM. MPA worked with the China Maritime Safety Administration to develop and trial standards for the exchange of electronic certificates and port clearance data, to facilitate efficient vessel clearance. The standards will be operationalised for ships travelling between the Port of Guangzhou and Singapore later this year. China and Singapore have also submitted a joint paper to the IMO, to promote global adoption of these standards.  

19.    Another key enabler is common data infrastructures. They facilitate trusted and secure data sharing, resulting in better visibility and increased efficiency across the supply chain. Ms Janet Ang asked about the development of the Singapore Trade Data Exchange (SGTraDex). Last year, MPA co-funded a data sharing pilot for ship supplies procurement and lighterage logistics with SGTraDex, Jurong Port and other partners. The pilot reduces manual data reconciliation and can save the industry over S$20 million annually. 

20.    In 2022, MPA expanded the Industry Digital Plan to all Sea Transport sub-sectors. More than 3,000 SMEs can now apply for funding support to adopt pre-approved digital solutions and I encourage them to do so.

21.    I agree with Mr Saktiandi that digitalisation will increase cyberattack risks. We need robust cyber defences. First, for critical information infrastructure in MPA and our port operators, we have upgraded the existing Maritime Security Operations Centre with more advanced capabilities to enhance early threat detection, monitoring, response, information sharing and analysis. As cyber threats evolve, we will continue to expand our capabilities. Next, MPA will establish a Maritime Cyber Assurance and Operations Centre, in collaboration with the industry. When fully operational in 2025, it will provide real-time security monitoring and disseminate information to mitigate cyber threats, advise on post-incident measures, and facilitate information-sharing and training for stakeholders. 

Ready for a Sustainable Future

22.    I will now touch on environmental sustainability. 

23.    Decarbonising is critical for Maritime Singapore’s long-term competitiveness. However, the transition to a greener future will involve costs and trade-offs. 

24.    Similar to digitalisation, the Government will walk this journey with our companies, but it is important also for businesses and business owners to take action and to start to embark on the journey.

25.    From 2030, new harbour craft operating in our port waters must be fully electric, be capable of using B100 biofuels, or be compatible with net zero fuels such as hydrogen. MPA has made good progress in supporting the electrification of harbour craft. Pilots for the first full-electric ferry by the consortium led by Keppel Offshore & Marine and full-electric lighter craft by the consortium led by SeaTech Solutions will commence later this year. MPA is also working with terminal and harbour craft operators to pilot the implementation of charging stations. The first charging station will be deployed by Shell at the Shell Energy and Chemicals Park Singapore on Pulau Bukom by the first half of 2023 to support full-electric ferries owned and operated by Penguin International. This will form part of a larger charging infrastructure implementation masterplan, which MPA will roll out by 2025.

26.    The transition to a sustainable future will take time. We need to start now to achieve our 2050 net zero emissions targets.  

Streamlining Business Costs

27.    Mr Chairman, while Singapore does not compete on costs alone, there are areas where we could help businesses to save time and money by reviewing our rules and regulations.  

28.    The work is ongoing, I will share three examples: 

a.     First, we are reviewing our transhipment procedures at the land checkpoints. Currently, the transhipment of goods through our land checkpoints at Woodlands and Tuas is considered import to be re-exported. Companies must apply for two permits from Customs – one for importing the goods, and another for exporting them, resulting in higher administrative and compliance costs. The review streamlines land transhipment procedures through the use of transhipment permits, similar to existing practices for air and sea transhipment. This will reduce the number of permits that companies need to apply for, with potential cost savings of up to S$40 for each transhipment. The total savings for the industry could amount to S$2 million annually. 

b.     Next, we are reviewing the requirements for exports at our air checkpoint. Companies are required to screen their cargo before export, which may involve physically opening the cargo for inspection. Companies with appropriate supply chain security controls in place can apply to the Police, for consideration to receive a reduced level of screening on their cargo. These requirements were put in place for good reasons – to ensure safety and security. They have served us well, upholding Singapore’s position as a trusted supply chain hub. However, there is scope to further calibrate the requirements based on risk management. For example, we could reduce the level of screening for goods exported through Singapore, if they come from overseas companies with strict safety and security processes in place. 

c.     Finally, we are exploring ways to move goods more efficiently between land checkpoints and our sea ports, to support multi-modal connectivity. Currently, only Singapore-registered container trucks and Singaporean or work permit drivers are allowed to enter our container terminals. Trucks from Malaysia that are not Singapore-registered and have foreign drivers will have to offload their containers outside the port after entering Singapore and load them onto Singapore-registered trucks with Singaporean or work permit drivers, before these containers are allowed to enter our container terminals. This double-handling is not productive, as it leads to increased manpower requirements and business costs.  We are also short of local drivers. PSA is working with the industry to allow non-Singapore registered trucks and non-Singaporean drivers under local logistics and haulier companies to access the container terminals and handle containers. They will do this in a phased approach to ensure safety and security. The companies and drivers will be subject to PSA’s approval, after attending workplace safety training and assessments. Allied Container Services is the first company that PSA has approved under this new arrangement. Allied Container Services will now be able to directly transport the goods of its customers from Malaysia to the container terminals in Singapore, without double-handling. 

29.    Mr Chairman, in Mandarin please.

30.    主席先生,我国港口与海事业虽然不依靠低成本取得竞争优势,但我们仍然可以通过检讨条例和条规,帮助商家省钱,省人力,省时间。政府将继续与业界和工会伙伴紧密合作,以实现这个目标。

31.    这项工作在进行中。我想分享三个例子: 首先,我们正在检讨陆路关卡和转运程序,以减少企业需要申请的准证数量和费用。 第二,我们将简化我国航空关卡的出口管制,在维持严格安检的环境中, 让工作流程严谨的公司面对较少的货物安检条规, 减轻它们的负担。第三,我们要提高陆路关卡和海港之间货物流通的效率。目前,马国注册货车必须将货物转移到本地注册的货车上,并由新加坡籍或持有工作准证的司机驾驶,才可以进入集装箱码头。新加坡国际港务集团(PSA) 将允许本地物流和货运公司旗下的外国注册货车以及外籍司机,进入集装箱码头。这些公司和司机必须通过工作场所安全培训以及评估,并获得PSA的批准。获准的公司便能将货物从马来西亚直接运到新加坡的集装箱码头。这样一来,能省时省钱,也更方便。

32.    劳资政三方携手合作,齐力检讨监管条例和营造亲商环境。

33.    我呼吁企业充分利用政府所提供的支援提高工作效率,在这个数码时代扬帆起航,乘风破浪。

34.    Mr Chairman, I am also glad to know that PSA, the Singapore Transport Association (STA), the Container Depot and Logistics Association (Singapore), and Enterprise Singapore have worked together to develop the OptETruck app in November 2022. It allows the haulier community to exchange data, job pool and integrate solutions, for trips made by their trucks. Currently, each truck makes up to 12 trips a day on average, but about 30 per cent are empty trips. With dynamic job allocation and job pooling provided by the app, the number of empty trips will be reduced by up to 50 per cent. This will also reduce the carbon footprint of the trucks – equivalent to planting up to 300,000 trees a year.

Developing Talent

35.    Sir, we need to enhance our competitiveness to provide good jobs and career opportunities for our people. At the same time, we need to continue building a future-ready workforce with the right skills and expertise. 

36.    In response to Ms Janet Ang, we have put in place several schemes over the years to attract and develop a steady pipeline of maritime talent. 

37.    Last year, I announced that MPA and our tripartite partners would fund a new Sail Milestone Achievement Programme (SailMAP) to support the earnings of our local seafarers. Ms Nur Farhana was one of the 41 seafarers who benefitted from this programme. Under SailMAP, she received $5,000 for attaining her Class 1 Certificate of Competency (CoC). This is the highest level of certification. This helped to offset her training costs for CoC Class 1 and will support her plans to pursue a Master of Science in Maritime Studies at the Nanyang Technological University.

38.    I agree with Mr Gan Thiam Poh that we need a pipeline of local seafarers to support our essential harbour craft sector. SailMAP is designed to deal with the challenges unique to ocean-going seafarers, who sail for extended periods, while our seafarers within the harbour craft sector can disembark and return home to their families more frequently.  

39.    MPA, the Employment and Employability Institute (e2i) and Workforce Singapore (WSG) have designed training programmes, to groom local seafarers to become harbour craft Captains and Chief Engineers. The programme fees are fully funded and trainees receive training allowances. 

40.    MPA will continue to strengthen the training and support for our local seafarers, and work with tripartite partners to attract and retain locals for these roles. 

41.    So I hope our young people will take up maritime-related courses and consider making Maritime your port of call.

42.    Thank you.


You may also like