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Dormitory, portal among productivity moves for Jurong Island

Wednesday, November 5, 2014 - 05:50
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The government is stepping up initiatives to improve productivity for construction and maintenance work of the energy and chemicals sector, as activity increases on Jurong Island.

Singapore

THE government is stepping up initiatives to improve productivity for construction and maintenance work of the energy and chemicals sector, as activity increases on Jurong Island.

These include a dormitory near Jurong Island to reduce travelling time for workers, reducing fatigue and improving on-site productivity.

A second initiative is a portal that will start in the middle of next year to aggregate data in order to reduce overlaps in project scheduling among companies, a common problem in the industry now. This will smoothen demand for manpower and help local firms better plan for projects, said Deputy Prime Minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam on Tuesday.

These plans were developed by a committee made up of representatives from major plant owners, contractors and government agencies that started meeting in January last year. The Process Construction and Maintenance Management Committee will reveal more plans next year, said Mr Tharman. "This is for the long term, a multi-year journey."

HSL Constructor, a civil engineering firm active in the oil and petrochemicals sector, welcomed the plans for a dormitory, saying that it may facilitate the possibility of conducting industry-specific training for all workers. Its chief executive, Charles Quek, also suggested that more could be done to standardise safety standards that currently differs from one plant to another.

"Although we do understand that there may be factors such as insurance that influence their corporate policies, but if safety requirements can be standardised, it would enhance mobility of workers between plants, hence increasing productivity," he said.

Mr Tharman made the announcement at the opening of a chemical plant by specialty chemicals producer Evonik Industries on Jurong Island. The 500 million euro (S$807 million) plant, which will produce methionine used in animal feed, is the German company's largest chemical investment in the world. It will create about 200 jobs. With an annual capacity of 150,000 tonnes, the plant will make nearly a quarter of Evonik's total of 580,000 tonnes. Evonik has four other methionine plants; Singapore is its first in Asia.

Asia's appetite for methionine has grown due to progress in feed technology, rapid population growth and a rising consumption of meat, said Evonik. It added that it chose Singapore for its logistical capabilities. "As we are serving the agriculture industry . . . we have to reach many, many different points in each country. Therefore, it's very decisive for us to be in Singapore which has a lot of connections to the different regions in the world," said Rainer Beste, president of the health and nutrition unit.

However, another plant that was to be built alongside the methionine complex has been delayed. The facility, which was to produce 20,000 tonnes of polyamide-12 chemicals a year - used in the automotive industry - was reportedly to cost as much as half the methionine plant.

After "debottlenecking", or optimising the capacity, of its plant in Europe, supply is now sufficient for the foreseeable future, partly because demand growth has not risen as much in recent years, said Evonik chairman Klaus Engel. The company is also examining new alternative technologies in producing the chemical, to make sure the best available technology is used in its next production plant.

"In principle, Singapore is still an option for (the plant), but we can be relaxed on timing here since supply from the market is sure," Dr Engel said, adding that a decision on the next step would be made in 12-18 months' time.

The company, meanwhile, has reserved space on Jurong Island for future investments. "Our commitment to Singapore and Jurong Island is long term," said Dr Engel. Though Singapore is competing with other parts of the world, it has the advantage of providing proximity to the company's customers, he added.

Evonik is the market leader for methionine in Asia, and holds a 40 per cent global market share. It recorded revenue of almost 13 billion euros last year, with Asia accounting for 18 per cent.

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