$1.6m funding for 11 joint industry projects to propel maritime sector

Senior Minister of State for Transport and Foreign Affairs Chee Hong Tat said at the Smart Port Challenge 2020 finals yesterday that innovation is crucial in tackling disruption, digitalisation and decarbonisation.
Senior Minister of State for Transport and Foreign Affairs Chee Hong Tat said at the Smart Port Challenge 2020 finals yesterday that innovation is crucial in tackling disruption, digitalisation and decarbonisation.

Ship crews checking in at Marina South Pier and West Coast Pier to board their vessels have been using self-service kiosks since the start of this month, reducing queueing time and physical interactions during the pandemic.

Ship parts such as engine components and fuel nozzles are also being 3D-printed locally and tested on Singapore-registered vessels from tug boats to massive container ships.

These are among the 11 joint industry projects worth $1.625 million awarded by the Maritime and Port Authority of Singapore (MPA) under the Maritime Innovation and Technology Fund. They are meant to drive digitalisation and the adoption of 3D printing in the maritime sector.

Speaking at the Smart Port Challenge 2020 finals yesterday, Senior Minister of State for Transport and Foreign Affairs Chee Hong Tat said innovation is crucial in tackling disruption, digitalisation and decarbonisation.

He also emphasised the need to review policies and rules to support innovation. He cited the use of telemedicine in examining and certifying fit seafarers on vessels, before they disembark for crew changes. Crew changes have been severely affected by the pandemic, with border and travel restrictions leaving 400,000 seafarers stranded at sea.

Doctors initially had to take a boat out to the vessels at sea to physically examine the crew. It was costly, time-consuming and carried a high risk of infection for the doctors.

"MPA worked with the Ministry of Health to revise our crew-change protocol and port marine circulars," said Mr Chee.

With the use of telemedicine, Singapore has facilitated over 54,000 crew changes since March 27, and created a procedure hailed as a global model.

Mr Chee also said that being innovative requires experimentation and risk-taking, and as the world's largest transhipment port, Singapore is a good location to test out new ideas. "Solutions that work well in a busy hub port like Singapore could be adapted for other ports globally," he said.

MPA, with the Singapore Shipping Association (SSA) and National Additive Manufacturing Innovation Cluster, had earlier this year called for proposals to drive digitalisation and the adoption of 3D printing, and had received 40 submissions.

Of the 11 approved projects, five are focused on improving operational resilience and productivity in the maritime sector in a post-pandemic new normal.

Local technology start-up ShipsFocus is collaborating with another maritime firm Innovez One to develop contactless counter services at the two piers, said Mr Chee.

The project could reduce queues and save roughly up to $180,000 per year, changing an industry typically used to scheduling vessels and passengers using pen and paper.

ShipsFocus founder Chua Chye Poh said that physical counters are usually manned 24/7 by around six people. Costs can be cut as these roles are gradually automated with a digital booking platform and self-service kiosks.

Another six projects are aimed at developing 3D-printing capabilities in the sector.

Wilhelmsen Ships Service and German manufacturer Thyssenkrupp will jointly lead two projects to print and trial the use of 14 ship parts on board Singapore-registered vessels from eight different shipping firms.

British construction engineering firm Lloyd's Register is also collaborating with Singapore Polytechnic to produce ship parts that will be fitted and trialled on ocean-going vessels from Neptune Pacific Line.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 18, 2020, with the headline '$1.6m funding for 11 joint industry projects to propel maritime sector'. Print Edition | Subscribe