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DPM: Singaporean core key to growth of maritime sector

The Maritime and Port Authority of Singapore in partnership with 13 industry bodies is set to roll out a series of initiatives to help Singaporeans with careers in the maritime industry.

Unveiling the initiatives at the 30th anniversary gala dinner of the Singapore Shipping Association, Deputy Prime Minister Teo Chee Hean said attracting and grooming good people with a strong and skilled Singaporean core is a key enabler for the further growth of the maritime industry, which accounts for 7 per cent of the nation's gross domestic product and employs more than 170,000 people.

Under the Sectorial Tripartite Committee for Transport (Sea) led by MPA, two task forces have been set up to address current gaps and recommend initiatives to strengthen manpower development efforts for both seafaring and shore-based sub-sectors. In addition to MPA, members of the task forces are Singapore Maritime Foundation, Singapore Shipping Association, Association of Singapore Marine Industries, Singapore Maritime Employers Federation, PSA, Jurong Port, National Trades Union Congress, Singapore Maritime Officers' Union, Singapore Organisation of Seamen, Workforce Development Agency, Singapore Polytechnic, Employment and Employability Institute and Wavelink Maritime Institute.

The task forces will draw on the S$115 million Maritime Cluster Fund and tap funding support from the government's SkillsFuture initiative to encourage lifelong learning. For a start, the two taskforces hope to initially attract over 1,200 Singaporeans to join the sector as maritime seafarers and port operations officers.

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The initial aim is to double the seafarers on board Singapore-flagged ships to 1,000 in the next five years and to meet projected demand of 700 to 750 staff at PSA and Jurong Port, according to MPA. MPA chief executive Andrew Tan said the target recruitment for the port operations will meet projected demand at the port terminals under expansion and the next generation Tuas port under construction. Mr Tan also urged Singaporeans to open up to seafaring career opportunities. Over 4,000 vessels are flagged under the Singaporean ship registry, but only one per cent of the crew on board these vessels numbering just 500 are Singaporeans, he said.

Singapore's maritime sector has, however, gone beyond port operations and shipping. Some 5,000 companies across the full spectrum of maritime businesses and services make up the vibrant maritime eco-system, Mr Teo who is also the Coordinating Minister for National Security and Minister for Home Affairs, pointed out. These include ship brokering, finance, legal and insurance.

MPA and its industry partners realise a lack of public awareness on the available career opportunities and progression paths is hindering manpower planning in the sector. To facilitate access to information on maritime careers as well as education and training, MPA will launch a one-stop career services platform, Maritime Singapore Connect (MSC), in 2016. Some S$4 million will be invested to set up MSC over a period of four years.

MPA is also seeking to expand the pool of available talent under the collaboration with Sea members. The SkillsFuture Earn and Learn Programme to be rolled in the maritime sector by the second quarter of 2016, will offer a sign-on incentive of S$5,000 to each Singaporean fresh polytechnic graduate completing a year-long structured work-study arrangement leading to an industry-recognised certification. Employers who sign up for the programme will be eligible for a grant of up to S$15,000 per trainee.

To support Singaporeans who are currently in the maritime sector to develop specialised skills, MPA will open up for applications, respectively, in the fourth quarter of 2015, the SkillsFuture Study Awards and in the first quarter of 2016, the SkillsFuture Credit. The SkillsFuture Study Awards will provide each recipient S$5,000 to help defray the cost of attending work-related training, while the SkillsFuture Credit will provide Singaproeans aged 25 and above with an initial credit of S$500 to cover fees for work skills-related courses. More focus will also be placed on training Singaporeans in seafaring jobs so that they can develop good careers in the shipping sub-sector. The MPA has committed S$4 million over the next three years to subsidise three programmes that will cover training costs for employers and offer study awards to Singaporean seafarers. These will be implemented from October 2015.

Beyond port-related jobs, Sea will also look into cross-over career opportunities such as ship-owning or operating and brokering, ship management and ship agency, to develop pathways for sea to shore transitions.