The Singapore Shipping Association (SSA) yesterday unveiled a slew of plans to boost the prospects of its members amid tough global industry conditions.
Key initiatives include building up the finance capability of shipping firms here by promoting more stock exchange listings, opening up access to capital markets and creating greater investor awareness.
The efforts are to be spearheaded by a new 13-man council of the SSA set up in June.
"It's well-known that Singapore has strong support and a sophisticated ship finance market in the traditional sense," said SSA president Esben Poulsson at a media briefing.
"But building capabilities beyond that is one area where we feel more can be done."
Mr Lee Keng Mun, who heads the SSA's ship finance workgroup - part of the new council - told The Straits Times it is already in talks with about five companies on the possibility of listing in Singapore.
"The investors are here, the funds are here, and as a maritime financial centre, there's a lot of depth and liquidity in the market.
"We need to capture some of these listings (instead of having them go overseas). There is space for growth," said Mr Lee, who is Asia head of shipping at ship financier HSH Nordbank.
The SSA represents 477 member companies across the shipping industry and related businesses.
It was formed in 1985 to serve and promote the interests of its members while enhancing the competitiveness of Singapore as an international maritime centre.
Mr Poulsson said the SSA is looking at doing more to help address the difficulties faced by offshore firms, which have been hit hard by the oil price slump.
The association is in discussion with the relevant authorities on reducing port dues - the fees levied by the port to ships entering the port and staying in dock - for offshore vessels, given that they are likely contending with lower utilisation rates. This could help offshore firms ease their costs, noted Mr Poulsson, who is also chairman of Greek ship-management company Enesel.
At the same time, the SSA will push for Singapore to have more double-taxation agreements, said Mr Rene Pedersen, chairman of the SSA's international committee.
He noted that Singapore today has some 65 double-taxation agreements - a modest figure compared with other jurisdictions such as Norway, which has about 130.
"(Having more such agreements) will give us a credit for freight taxes (and) ensure we can work with Singapore-flagged offshore units in foreign waters," said Mr Pedersen, who is also managing director of shipowner AP Moller Singapore.
"For us to develop as a shipping industry and an offshore industry, we need to have a better network of double-taxation agreements."