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Cementing Singapore's maritime status

A strong maritime R&D eco-system will help Singapore keep its position as a leading maritime and offshore centre.

Mr Tan says that Singapore's next generation port will require harnessing smart technology and better integration at the new Tuas terminal.

EVEN as Singapore received the accolade of being one of the top global maritime hubs in the list of the most important maritime capitals for 2015, it has steadily grown its maritime research and development (R&D) landscape over the past 10 years with an eye on keeping its leadership position strong in the coming years.

Singapore was named the number one maritime capital in the world based on a combination of objective indicators derived from public data sources as well as a survey of 200 industry experts from over 33 countries by Menon Business Economics.

"As recently as 10 years ago, Singapore lacked world class maritime research and education, and the linkages between foreign and domestic companies were weak. Today, the city plays a key role in all aspects of the maritime industry," the Scandinavian consultancy notes.

Looking five years into the future, Menon's experts predict that Singapore will keep its position as the global maritime leader.

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Singapore's maritime sector is a big contributor to the economy, providing 170,000 jobs and accounting for 7 per cent of the country's GDP. R&D is a vital pillar supporting Singapore's competitiveness as a leading international maritime and offshore centre and global hub port. In addition to achieving greater productivity, breakthroughs in research and technology will greatly contribute towards cementing Singapore's status as a leading maritime and offshore centre.

Underpinning Singapore's global maritime leadership position is the country's strong R&D eco-system in which the institutes of higher learning (IHL) and industry players play an important role.

Significantly, classification societies, terminal operators and shipyards are among those undertaking R&D projects in the areas of environmental sustainability, info-communications technologies, safety, automation applicable for shipping and port, and materials, and interacting with each other in R&D, education and other areas.

Says S S Teo, chairman of the Singapore Maritime Institute (SMI): "As a premier international maritime centre, Singapore is advancing her position as a global knowledge hub.

"Maritime Singapore aims to achieve this vision through research and technology for breakthrough applications supporting industry development. SMI serves to promote impactful research collaboration between the industry and academia."

Speaking at the SMI Forum 2015 on Oct 22, Andrew Tan, chief executive of the Maritime and Port Authority of Singapore (MPA), said that Singapore's next generation port would require harnessing smart technology and better integration at the new Tuas terminal. These include new concepts to create more space for optimal land use including better accessibility to the public, logistics efficiency, and sustainable development.

"We are looking to deploy advanced port technologies, such as automated guided vehicles (AGVs), automated yard and quay cranes. PSA Corporation is already undertaking R&D and test-bedding of the AGV and the AGV-operational system, but we are also exploring R&D in other container terminal technologies and new operating concepts," said Mr Tan.

An important component of the maritime research ecosystem in the country is the research and innovation centres that have been set up in the past decade in the IHL and by the industry.

National University of Singapore (NUS) has set up the Centre for Maritime Studies, Centre for Offshore Research & Engineering, Tropical Marine Sciences Institute, Centre for Maritime Law and Keppel-NUS Corporate Laboratory.

Over at Nanyang Technological University (NTU), the Maritime Research Centre, Centre for Maritime Energy Research, which is part of the Energy Research Institute @ NTU, Maritime Energy Testbed Facility and Sembcorp Marine Laboratory@NTU have been set up.

Similarly, Singapore Polytechnic and Ngee Ann Polytechnic have also set up the Singapore Maritime Academy Research and Training (SMART) Centre and the Marine & Offshore Technology Centre of Innovation respectively.

Lloyd's Register, the world's first classification society, and the Agency for Science, Technology and Research's (A*STAR) Institute of High Performance Computing (IHPC) set up the Global Technology Centre in Singapore in 2012. Among its aims is to deliver innovative technological solutions to address the challenges faced by the marine, energy and offshore sectors.

In January this year, A*STAR's IHPC, Sembcorp Marine, University of Glasgow and University of Glasgow Singapore (UGS) started a new public private research collaboration to develop more efficient and eco-friendly ships. They are collaborating to develop new hull designs for large ocean-going vessels and make them more environmentally friendly.

The plan is to use computational modelling and visualisation technologies to design vessels with improved hydrodynamics for better fuel efficiency. In addition, they will collaborate and innovate on features to reduce harmful exhaust emissions and discharges by enhancing the vessel's scrubber and ballast treatment systems.

The partnership forms an eco-system that creates value from unique technologies and research talent. The collaboration will employ multi-physics computation to build modelling and simulation capabilities. It will combine the scientific expertise from IHPC, University of Glasgow and UGS, with Sembcorp Marine's knowledge and wealth of experience in industrial maritime applications.

"This collaboration is a major step towards combining innovative ideas in science and technology with maritime experience to develop products and processes which are in demand by maritime and on-shore industries. Such collaboration will contribute towards better efficiency in ships, reducing gas emission and enhance the marine ecology," says Ong Poh Kwee, deputy president of Sembcorp Marine Ltd.

As for the industry, the classification societies, the shipyards and the terminal operators have also been playing a key role in maritime research and development work in Singapore.

Nippon Kaiji Kyokai, a ship classification society, set up the Global Research and Innovation Centre, American Bureau of Shipping set up the Singapore Innovation and Research Centre, DNVGL set up the Clean Technology Centre and Bureau Veritas set up the Deepwater Technology Research Centre.

Home-grown Keppel Offshore and Marine (KOM) set up its KOM Technology Centre in 2007. The centre now has about 90 researchers. Similarly, Sembcorp Marine, has set up Sembcorp Marine Technology Pte Ltd.

The PSA has joined hands with MPA on port technology R&D and is currently undertaking R&D and test-bedding of port automation technologies, while Jurong Port has set up a research and innovation centre.

Among the various sources of funding that the industry and research community can tap is MPA's S$150 million Maritime Innovation & Technology (MINT) Fund. It was established to develop Singapore as a centre of excellence for maritime R&D and technology solutions, and to enhance Singapore's position as a premier global hub port and an international maritime centre.

The fund offers co-funding support for local companies and foreign companies with local presence to undertake maritime technology development activities such as R&D, test-bedding, proof of concept and product and solution development.

Another important source for maritime R&D funding is the SMI Fund, which has committed over S$45 million of funding since its formation in 2011.

SMI collaborates with local universities, polytechnics, research institutions and maritime industry stakeholders to develop R&D roadmaps and initiate new strategic programmes and initiatives for R&D, policy research, and education and training in key maritime areas such as port, shipping and maritime services.