Opening Address by Senior Parliamentary Secretary Baey Yam Keng, Ministry of Transport and Ministry of Sustainability and The Environment at Maritime Manpower Forum on 19 April 2024

19 Apr 2024Speeches

Ms Caroline Yang, President, Singapore Shipping Association,

Mr Hor Weng Yew, Chairman, Singapore Maritime Foundation,

Distinguished friends of the maritime community,  

Ladies and Gentlemen,

1.     Good morning, and welcome to the Maritime Manpower Forum. I hope the past week has been fulfilling and enriching for all of you.

2.     It is apt that we round off this year’s Singapore Maritime Week with a focus on manpower development. A skilled maritime workforce forms the foundation and growth engine for many areas we delved into this week, from decarbonisation and digitalisation to maritime services.

3.     As Minister Chee said in his opening speech on Monday, despite a challenging external environment, Maritime Singapore has grown from strength to strength, posting a record-breaking year in 2023, and a robust performance in 1Q 2024.

4.     We owe this growth to our strong tripartite partnership, built on a foundation of trust and collaboration. Through the collective efforts of the government, employers, and the unions, we have worked through crises such as the COVID-19 pandemic, to build an agile and adaptable workforce.

5.     The theme of this year’s Maritime Manpower Forum is “Sailing into the Future: Emerging Skills and Attracting Maritime Professionals”. With the rapid transformation of the industry, we must continue to invest in attracting talent, upgrading and reskilling our workforce with emerging skills, and push on with building a sustainable talent pipeline for Maritime Singapore. 

Tripartite Advisory Panel Recommendations

6.     How can we do so? This is the question that the Tripartite Advisory Panel (TAP) sought to address. Convened by the Singapore Maritime Foundation (SMF) and supported by MPA, the TAP has findings to offer some answers, and it is my pleasure to share themwith you today.

7.     After a year-long review with industry partners and associations across the maritime ecosystem, unions, and Institutes of Higher Learning (IHLs), the TAP has charted out three main pathways to develop proposals to equip Maritime Singapore’s workforce with enduring and emerging skillsets, including domain, digital, and soft skills:

a.     First, re-imagine the way students and non-maritime professionals discover, enter and stay within the maritime industry. This is done by amplifying outreach to bring onboard new perspectives and strengthening diversity, equity and inclusion efforts for our seafarers.

b.     Second, review and enhance training curricula and formats to accelerate development of emerging skills and close knowledge gaps between sea and shore roles.

c.     Third, strengthen the sea-to-shore transition and enable multiple career pathways within the industry by strengthening the value proposition of maritime careers, diversifying career pathways, and harmonising human resource practices across sea and shore.

Attracting talent to enter the maritime industry

8.     Let me elaborate on these pathways, beginning with attracting a global workforce with diverse skillsets to Maritime Singapore.

9.     To ensure a sustainable pipeline of emerging skills that are currently in strong demand but short supply, MPA has broadened the MaritimeONE scholarships and Global Internship Award. In addition to traditional maritime domains, these initiatives also support students to pursue their education and training in emerging areas such as computing, cybersecurity, and sustainability. I met some of the students last Saturday at the Singapore Maritime Foundation City Cycle, and was impressed by their energy and enthusiasm, and look forward to them joining the industry.

10.    The MaritimeONE-Singapore Maritime Institute Postgraduate R&D scholarship was also established in 2023 to cultivate a pool of local research talent whose research capabilities in decarbonisation and digitalisation can enhance our maritime R&D ecosystem. We are finalising the first batch of recipients and expect to award up to 9 scholarships by end-2025.

11.    The maritime industry offers diverse pathways towards a rewarding career, regardless of age or experience. We also welcome professionals who wish to leverage their skills and experience to make a mid-career switch to explore the maritime industry.

12.    Minister Chee announced last month that we have refreshed the Career Conversion Programme for the maritime sector to lower the barriers to entry for mid-career professionals, and enable our existing maritime workforce to upskill and take on new or expanded roles through on-the-job training. The programme provides employers with salary support and has been expanded to cover new growth job roles with good long-term prospects, such as in maritime digitalisation, decarbonisation and cybersecurity. I am happy to hear that more than 20 companies have applied for the refreshed programme.

Growing Singapore as a maritime training hub

13.    Next, on training. With digitalisation and decarbonisation reconfiguring jobs, we need to equip our workers with critical emerging skills to future-proof their careers.

14.    The TAP recommended establishing Singapore as a hub for future maritime skills. This would leverage our strong network of maritime companies, IHLs and leading technology companies to unlock high quality industry-oriented training for maritime students and professionals.

15.    MPA and SMF have taken the first step to growing Singapore as a hub for maritime talent development with the launch of a Joint Office for Talent and Skills. The Joint Office will focus on talent attraction and skills acquisition, by raising the quality of training available to the maritime workforce. The Joint Office will also explore developing a competency-based stackable micro-credentials model, which will facilitate upskilling of our workforce in an agile and targeted manner to meet industry needs. I invite our industry partners and unions to join MPA and SMF in driving this effort, such as by identifying applicable skills and competencies that you would like the Joint Office to focus on.

16.    As we press on with decarbonisation, we must equip our workers with the skills to handle alternative fuels safely and effectively. To this end, Minister Chee announced on Monday that MPA will establish the Maritime Energy Training Facility (METF) in collaboration with 23 stakeholders spanning major marine engine manufacturers, international organisations, classification societies, trade associations, unions and IHLs.

17.    I am happy to share that the Singapore Maritime Academy (SMA) will introduce, as part of the METF curriculum, the region’s first MPA-approved training course on handling of methanol as fuel for maritime personnel from this month. The programme provides specialised training in methanol fuel handling based on operational and safety protocols developed by MPA following the successful completion of the world’s first ship-to-containership methanol bunkering operation conducted in Singapore last year. This positions SMA as a trailblazer in maritime education to enable safe and efficient bunkering operations of new marine fuels.

18.    The METF will add to the suite of existing global initiatives ensuring that maritime workers are able to keep pace with the industry’s transformation. The Maritime Just Transition Task Force (MJTTF) was established during COP26 in November 2021 by the International Chamber of Shipping, International Transport Workers’ Federation, United Nations Global Compact, International Labour Organization (ILO) and International Maritime Organization (IMO) to support a just and human-centred decarbonisation of the shipping industry, in alignment with Just Transition guidelines from the ILO.

19.    MPA aims to partner the Maritime Just Transition Task Force to roll out its training materials through the METF, in support of MJTTF’s project to develop a Baseline Training Framework for Seafarers in Decarbonization. These efforts will contribute to IMO’s work in developing training provisions for seafarers on ships using alternative fuels and complement IMO’s ongoing comprehensive review of the International Convention and Code on Standards of Training, Certification and Watchkeeping for Seafarers.

20.    I urge our maritime companies and unions to partner the METF by actively offering your valuable expertise, and tapping on the METF’s training programmes for your teams.

21.    In addition, corporate training academies set up by maritime companies such as PSA, and Eastern Pacific Shipping are just as important to deliver executive and technical training across their global offices. We hope to strengthen the complementarity among courses offered by these training academies and the IHLs, so the relevant expertise can be shared with the wider maritime workforce.

Redesigning job roles to retain skilled workers

22.    Finally, on job redesign to enable multiple career pathways in the maritime sector. Technology and business process reengineering have allowed us to enhance the value proposition of maritime job roles. 

23.    SMF, in partnership with Pacific Carriers Limited and Pacific International Lines, and with MPA’s support, successfully completed a job redesign pilot in 2022, culminating in the publication of the Maritime Workforce Transformation Guidebook in April 2023. The pilot redesigned the roles of technical superintendents and vessel operators, transforming them from technical and operational roles to strategic and leadership ones, opening up a wider variety of career and progression pathways for these workers. The redesign also identified new skills, such as digitalisation and business development capabilities, to enhance the effectiveness of these roles.

24.    Additionally, the redesign lowered the barriers of entry with more precise identification of the key skills required, compared to traditional entry requirements which may require candidates to have long seafaring experience, thereby increasing their accessibility.


25.    Digitalisation and sustainability will reshape the sector, and we need to ensure that our workforce is ready and equipped to drive this change. Collectively, through the efforts of all tripartite partners, we can sustain a strong pipeline of maritime talent – 1) by attracting youths and professionals with diverse skillsets to enter the industry, 2) future-proofing our workforce through upskilling and reskilling in emerging competencies, and 3) redesigning job roles to keep career pathways fresh and exciting.

26.    I wish everyone a fruitful forum. Thank you.


You may also like