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Roadmap to create S$4.5b in value-add and over 5,000 jobs for maritime sector by 2025

It will build on existing strategies to prepare the Singapore port to grab new growth opportunities

Singapore

A NEW plan has been mapped out to set the course for Singapore's maritime industry over the next decade.

The Sea Transport Industry Transformation Map (ITM), unveiled on Friday, aims to grow the industry's real value-add by S$4.5 billion and create more than 5,000 good jobs by 2025.

It will build on existing strategies to develop the Singapore port and strengthen its international maritime centre - with the vision for Singapore to become a global maritime hub for connectivity, innovation and talent, Senior Minister of State for Transport and for Health Lam Pin Min said.

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Speaking at the launch of the ITM at the annual Singapore Maritime Foundation New Year cocktail reception, he said: "While 2017 was a better year than the last, we watch with cautious optimism as the road ahead remains challenging. Indeed, we have to continue to paddle hard to stay ahead. We not only have to continue to deliver world-class port services, we must also capture new growth opportunities and strengthen our value proposition to the world. This means we must fundamentally relook the way we operate our businesses as well as the kind of capabilities our maritime workforce needs."

The Sea Transport ITM, which covers port, shipping and maritime services, will serve as the industry's blueprint as it pursues "real and deep transformation over the next few years", he said.

Spearheaded by the Maritime and Port Authority of Singapore (MPA) in partnership with the industry, unions and other government agencies, the Sea Transport ITM is the first of eight such industry-specific roadmaps to be launched this year.

Fifteen have already been set in motion under a S$4.5 billion industry transformation package announced in Budget 2016.

One key strategy of the Sea Transport ITM is to build up a well-connected and vibrant international maritime centre cluster, said Dr Lam.

To enhance Singapore's status as a key economic node of the global trading system, the government will continue to boost the port's physical connectivity by actively anchoring and attracting shipping lines here - like it did with CMA CGM last year, he said. Container throughput rose 8.9 per cent to 33.7 million twenty-foot equivalent units (TEUs) last year, due to the "pick-up in the global economy and the PSA's efforts to anchor major shipping alliances here", he noted.

More initiatives will be rolled out to develop Singapore's maritime financing landscape, such as the inaugural Maritime Capital Forum last year. "We can be the place where maritime capital is raised from both traditional and alternative sources," said Dr Lam.

Another key thrust of the ITM is to drive growth through productivity improvements and innovation, particularly with the use of automation and digitalisation.

He said the government will continue to help firms leverage new technologies and automation to improve operational efficiency.

The Maritime Cluster Fund aims to enable such improvements by supporting the development of in-house and customisable productivity solutions.

To drive digitalisation and boost overall productivity, the MPA is developing technology platforms such as the Maritime Single Window, which will be integrated with the National Trade Platform to facilitate the sharing of vessel and cargo-related information with the wider trading community, Dr Lam said.

The MPA is also looking at digitalising trade and maritime documentation, such as the use of electronic bills of lading, which will facilitate more efficient trade flows. A vibrant innovation ecosystem is important as Singapore sets its sights on becoming a world leader in this space, he said. To this end, the MPA Living Lab will serve as "a demand-aggregator and test-bed" for solutions in areas like autonomous systems and smart infrastructure.

The MPA will promote the growth of maritime technology enterprises through initiatives such as the Smart Port Challenge.

Home-grown Glee Trees, which won last year's challenge, will work on a proof-of-concept with the Singapore Shipping Association to develop a productivity tool for the ship agency sector.

To deepen research and development capabilities here, the Singapore Maritime Institute will invest S$12 million to set up the Centre of Excellence in Modelling and Simulation for Next-Generation Ports, said Dr Lam.

This centre of excellence will tap port modelling, simulation and optimisation capabilities in the National University of Singapore to enhance the Singapore port's ability to handle increasingly complex operations.

Key to supporting the transformation of the industry is a maritime workforce that is equipped with the relevant future skills - which is why the government will do more to bring well-trained personnel into the industry, he said.

This year, two sea-faring maritime SkillsFuture Earn-and-Learn Programmes, launched in 2016, will be open to graduates from the Tripartite Nautical Training Award and Tripartite Engineering Training Award programmes. This will enable more junior seafarers to deepen their skills to take on higher-level jobs on board ships.

Dr Lam added that most of the 5,000 new jobs to be created will be professionals, managers, executives and technicians (PMET) roles. Those in more traditional job roles will undergo skills upgrading as jobs evolve with increasing automation and digitalisation.

The maritime industry, including the marine and offshore engineering sector, employed more than 170,000 people and contributed 7 per cent to Singapore's economy last year.

At the event, five memoranda of understanding were inked between the MPA and its tripartite partners to drive this transformation of Maritime Singapore.

Industry players, as well as those from adjacent sectors, have given the new roadmap the nod. Robert Yap, executive chairman of logistics giant YCH Group, said the Sea Transport ITM will bring Singapore one step closer to cementing its position as a leading logistics and supply chain management hub.

He noted that the Logistics ITM itself has seen good progress, with 45 firms from the newly-formed Supply Chain and Logistics Academy participating in the Logistics Professional Conversion Programme. Eight in 10 participants were small and medium-sized enterprises.

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