SkillsFuture support, job portal, cash incentives to attract more than 1,200 to maritime sector

SINGAPORE - The maritime sector is pumping more funds into easing its manpower shortage, with a tripartite committee earmarking $8 million for a new job portal, training awards and incentives, as well as tapping via SkillsFuture programmes.

Deputy Prime Minister Teo Chee Hean announced some of these initiatives at the Singapore Shipping Association 30th anniversay dinner on Friday.

The tripartite taskforce, spearheaded by the Maritime and Port Authority of Singapore (MPA) intends the new schemes to attract more than 1,200 Singaporeans to seafaring and port operations careers in the next five years.

This will effectively double the number of seafaring officers now actively sailing, which is estimated to be about 500.

Speaking on the pressing need for young blood in the labour-starved sector, MPA chief executive Andrew Tan said: "With manpower, it's not something for which you can just turn on the tap and it comes out. You have to spend years building a pipeline, and these challenging economic times are the best time to start, before the upturn."

In the sector's first attempt to tap on SkillsFuture funding, an Earn-and-Learn programme starting next year will see fresh polytechnic graduates placed in jobs such as port operations officers, seafaring officers and marine engineers.

Singaporeans will receive an incentive of $5,000 for signing on with the year-long training programme, while participating employers will be eligible for grants of up to $15,000 a trainee.

For those already in the industry, MPA is also opening applications for SkillsFuture Study Awards in the next quarter. This will provide recipients with $5,000 each to subsidise maritime-related training.

The MPA is investing $4 million in a new job centre and portal, the Maritime Singapore Connect Office, which will open next year to provide job-matching services and career information to schools, job seekers and employers in the maritime industry.

Another $4 million will go, over the next three years, towards subsidies and cash awards for seafarers-to-be, to spur them to pursue their training to the end.

Starting next month, shipping companies will save up to half of the monthly allowances they pay Singaporean cadets - usually about $800 a month - which will be reimbursed by MPA.

Aspiring local seafarers will also get awards of up to $2,000 when they complete the training to become junior officers, and up to $3,000 for attaining each stage of the Certificate of Competency (CoC) required to serve aboard a ship.

Another scheme will allow employers to offer junior seafaring officers a training allowance of up to $6,000 while they are pursuing full-time training for higher-class CoCs.

Asked why such cash incentives are necessary, Singapore Maritime Officers Union general secretary Mary Liew said: "This is a very tough job where you are out at sea for long periods, without your family. We are looking for Singaporeans with passion who are prepared to make sacrifices, and these are things we can do to help them."