The Tripartite Nautical Training Award (TNTA) programme, which trains Singaporeans and permanent residents for jobs in the maritime industry, has received a $22 million boost in funding, Minister for Health Mr Gan Kim Yong announced on Thursday.
Over a five-year period, the funding will come from the Singapore Workforce Development Agency (WDA), NTUC's Employment & Employability Institute (e2i), and the Singapore Maritime Officers' Union (SMOU). The funding support from WDA and e2i will cover the training fees and a monthly allowance of up to $1,400 per cadet during the 31-month training course.
"This will allow even more Singaporeans to pursue exciting nautical careers and provide the maritime industry with a healthy pipeline of young and competent officers," said Mr Gan.
More than 13 shipping companies and 130 cadets have participated in the TNTA programme so far, which had previously received a total funding of about $6 million. It was first initiated in 2009 by the Singapore Maritime Officers' Union to address the lack of Singaporeans in the seafaring industry. Out of about 20,000 maritime officers, only 1,605 are Singaporeans.
Cadets in the programme pay a tenth of the $28,000 course fee, which has increased from about $25,000 since 2009. The WDA and e2i cover 80 per cent of the fees, while SMOU pays for the rest.
Captain Ken Yeow, executive director of Wavelink Maritime Institute, the training arm of SMOU, said that the current average seafaring lifespan of officers has halved to seven and a half years, as the younger generation of seafarers tend to leave sooner, resulting in a loss of industry talent.
He said that the boost in funding sends a "good message" that the Government is committed to developing the maritime sector.
Mr Gan also announced at the luncheon that SMOU has set aside $500,000 to launch the SMOU Care Fund, a financial programme to help needy elderly members of the union with their medical costs.
The minister added that the union will be organising health talks and health checks for its older members in the coming months.