Speech by Senior Minister of State For Finance & Transport, Mr Chee Hong Tat at the Singapore Maritime Foundation New Year Conversations 2023

13 Jan 2023Speeches
Ladies and Gentlemen,

1.     Good afternoon and wishing everyone a happy, healthy and successful new year. I am delighted to be here today at the Singapore Maritime Foundation (SMF) New Year Conversations. This is a good occasion for maritime leaders to connect and exchange views as we prepare for the year ahead. 

Global Economy Faces Increasing Headwinds 

2.     Maritime Singapore has continued to perform well in 2022. In the face of external headwinds from the Russia-Ukraine war and global inflationary pressures, our International Maritime Centre expanded steadily and our Hub Port has also strengthened its connectivity and enhanced its position as a trusted catch-up port.

a.     As a result of the slowdown in production and consumption in the major economies, overall trade volumes and in turn container volumes were adversely impacted. Global container trade fell by about 3 – 4% in 2022.  In comparison, the Port of Singapore has remained resilient. 

b.     Our container throughput in 2022 was 37.3 million twenty-foot equivalent units (TEUs), which is the second-highest ever container throughput for the Port of Singapore. This is a slight drop from the record 37.6 million TEUs in 2021.

c.     Importantly, we retained our position as the world’s largest transshipment port. And during the pandemic, we enhanced Singapore’s connectivity and strengthened our position as a catch-up port for shipping lines, contributing to the resilience of global supply chains.  

d.     Bunker sales also experienced a reduction last year, though we retained our position as the world’s largest bunkering hub.  Total volume declined by 4.3% year-on-year in 2022, to reach 47.9 million tonnes.  Volumes dipped particularly in the first half of 2022 when the Russia-Ukraine war led to supply chain disruptions and high bunker prices globally. 

e.     Bunker sales in Singapore have since recovered with a rise in sales volume by 9.5% compared to the first half of 2022. In addition, a total of 15 ship-to-ship Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) bunkering operations were conducted in 2022.

f.     Singapore made progress in supplying alternative fuels, such as biofuels, to support maritime decarbonisation. 140,000 tonnes of biofuel blends were supplied across more than 90 biofuel bunkering operations.  The Maritime and Port Authority of Singapore (MPA) has also developed a provisional biofuel standard on the specifications of marine biofuel for blends up to B50.

g. I am also happy to report that Maritime Singapore was recognised as the top international maritime city in the Xinhua-Baltic International Shipping Centre Development Index and Menon Economics-DNV’s Leading Maritime Cities of the World report. 

Maritime Singapore Ecosystem’s Good Growth Momentum

3.     Amidst uncertainties and challenges, Maritime Singapore has continued to grow. We attracted companies and investments, and created many good jobs for Singaporeans in areas such as port operations, shipping, and ship management. In 2021, 310 graduates joined the maritime sector, of which 170 were graduates from the Polytechnics and Institute of Technical Education (ITE), and 140 were from the Autonomous Universities (AUs). 

4.     Last year, the total business spending by shipping companies exceeded S$4.3 billion. We also welcomed more than 30 maritime companies that established or expanded their operations in Singapore under MPA’s programmes. This is more than 30% higher than the number of companies which expanded operations or set up in Singapore in 2021, reflecting the growing attraction of our international maritime centre.  

5.     If we compare against 2019, before the start of the Covid pandemic, we also have over 30% more companies that set up or expanded operations in Singapore than in 2019.

a.     For example, in 2022, Olam Group, a leading agri-business company listed on Singapore Exchange, expanded its shipping operations in Singapore to support global business activities. 

b.     French bank Société Générale has also established a finance desk here to capture more opportunities in the Asia-Pacific region, particularly to support maritime decarbonisation. 

6.     Companies are also driving their future transformation from Singapore. For example, Ocean Network Express (ONE) has officially opened its Green Strategy Office to drive their sustainability strategies, activities, and partnerships. 

7.     Pacific International Lines (PIL) has opened its Centre of Maritime Efficiency, using state-of-the-art technology for traffic optimisation and route analysis. 

8.     Swire Shipping and Swire Bulk set up a decarbonisation desk in Singapore last year to advance its green shipping initiatives. 

9.     We have also further strengthened our MarineTech ecosystem. The number of start-ups under PIER71TM has grown from 17 in 2018 when PIER71TM was first launched, to close to 100 today.  This is good work, but I do want to gently remind everyone that our target is to reach 150 MarineTech start-ups in Singapore by 2025.  So the hard work continues.  

10.    These MarineTech start-ups have cumulatively raised over S$50 million in investments over the last 4 years. 

a.     Five foreign MarineTech start-ups have come to our shores since 2018 to set up their headquarters and create good jobs for locals in the process. 

b.     This includes EyeGauge, a French start-up that has developed a smart ship solution for monitoring analog shipboard equipment, as well as Tagvance, a Turkish start-up that has developed an industrial workforce tracking system which was deployed in Jurong Port. 

c.     We have provided an ecosystem that matches start-ups to the investment community to support their growth and scaling-up. 

d.     The winner of the PIER71™ Smart Port Challenge 2022, GotSurge, a digital logistics service provider, has been acquired by Yinson Green Technologies. Yinson will invest more than a million dollars to support the expansion of GotSurge to serve more maritime companies in their ship supplies and maritime logistics needs. 

e.     In addition to PIER71TM start-ups, the MISC Group, together with BCG Digital Ventures, have also co-invested in a marine start-up venture, Magellan X, which has three sub-ventures SOL-X, Chord X and Spares CNX that leverage digital and deep technologies to create operational efficiencies across the shipping value chain. 

11.    Our achievements would not have been possible without our partners from the industry and academia. I would like to thank everyone present today for your continued contributions and strong support. 

The Next Bound of Growth for Maritime Singapore

12.    Global economic growth is expected to slow in 2023. I remain optimistic in Maritime Singapore’s potential to achieve growth over the medium to longer term. We have done well in 2022, and we need to work together to do more this year to further deepen our capabilities and position the sails to catch the next gust of wind that will propel our ship forward.

a.     Supply chains are becoming more complex as governments and companies around the world reconfigure their supply chains to enhance resilience.

b.     Competition is growing from ports and business hubs around the world. Maritime Singapore will need to stay ahead by developing stronger capabilities in digitalisation and decarbonisation.

c.     Linked to this, we also need to look at new technologies and innovation efforts, which are transforming the maritime sector and increasing the need for a skilled maritime workforce.

d.     Addressing climate change challenges will require collective action. We will continue to work with the maritime industry and energy players, as well as our unions and workers, to transform the sector by leveraging opportunities for new vessel designs, enhancing energy efficiency and reducing carbon emissions.
13.    There is room for further growth in the maritime sector, and we can achieve this through continued investments in capability-building, talent development and innovation, anchored by our strong tripartite partnership. The Government will work closely with the industry, research institutes, the investment community and other like-minded partners to capture new opportunities and drive our next bound of growth. I will share more about our plans during MOT’s Committee of Supply debate in March.  

Support from Tripartite Partners

14.    Before I conclude, I would like to give special thanks to our tripartite partners for your strong support all these years, in good times and also during difficult periods.  We have gone through many ups and downs together.  

15.    During COVID-19, we saw how the government, industry and unions came together to ensure the Port of Singapore remained open, resilient, and reliable. We were able to facilitate safe crew change for seafarers, and also ensure the safety of our frontline maritime workers. 

16.    I would like to congratulate Mr Tan Chong Meng, Ms Caroline Yang, Sister Mary Liew and Brother Kam Soon Huat, and all the award recipients and teams for receiving the COVID-19 National Awards.  These awards are a recognition of their contributions and service to Singapore and the maritime sector in our collective fight against COVID-19.  

17.    Beyond the pandemic, the industry and unions have been our unwavering allies in driving transformation of the maritime sector. An example is the Maritime Industry Transformation Tripartite Committee which was announced in April last year to support the achievement of the refreshed Sea Transport Industry Transformation Map targets. 

18.    Maritime Singapore’s tripartite partnership will also be our strength as we develop capabilities in digitalisation and decarbonisation.  Last September, I was delighted that Sister Mary, Brother Kam and Sister Caroline were able to join Chairman/MPA, CE/MPA and myself on a working visit to Tokyo to meet key companies and learn more about opportunities for collaboration with our Japanese counterparts.  We are planning our next working trip for this year.  

19.    I am not aware of another country which has adopted such a collaborative tripartite approach in their digitalisation and decarbonisation journey.  On the contrary, we have read media reports of industrial strikes in overseas jurisdictions which have disrupted business operations and supply chains.  

20.    We treasure our strong tripartite partnership in Singapore, and we will continue to nurture and enhance it over time.  This is our strength and we will use it as a competitive advantage to differentiate ourselves, and enable Maritime Singapore to move ahead more quickly and go further. 


21.    There is a saying that the winds and the waves are always on the side of the ablest navigators.  And teamwork is essential for the ship to overcome strong winds and stormy seas.  With all hands on deck, I am confident that we will be able to sail together and reach new frontiers.

22.    I wish everyone a pleasant evening ahead. Thank you.

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