Subsidised hotel rooms for seafaring officers are on the way to help lighten the financial load of firms in the sector, but such moves are only for the short term.
National Trades Union Congress secretary-general Chan Chun Sing said yesterday: "Our seafarers are at the core of all we do, and it is only right for us to do what we can to work with our industry partners to take care of them through thick and thin."
He was speaking at the union's 65th anniversary gala dinner at the Resorts World Convention Centre, where a new seafarers accommodation scheme by the Singapore Maritime Officers' Union (SMOU) was announced.
Mr Chan said the move meets only a short-term challenge, as new skills and jobs must be created in light of remotely driven commercial vessels becoming commonplace.
The scheme being offered by the union will subsidise 6,000 hotel rooms for the next two years at a cost of $300,000. It targets shipping companies with a collective agreement with the union. Shipping firms now pay for seafaring officers' lodgings here when they sign on or off a ship, or for training.
The SMOU said in a statement: "Shipping companies are not only getting some financial relief but it ensures that the welfare of the seafaring officers will not be compromised."
SMOU general secretary Mary Liew said that as the shipping industry is facing headwinds, it is important "to rally around and proactively come up with creative and yet practical ideas".
Captain William Tan, director at Tai Chong Cheang Steamship, welcomed the move "amid the shipping situation now, and it will assure our officers of reasonable accommodation options after they sign off in Singapore - a win-win situation for both the shipping company and the seafarers".
Singapore has more than 5,000 maritime establishments employing more than 170,000 staff. The maritime industry contributes 7 per cent of Singapore's GDP.
Earlier this year, the SMOU announced a $1.5 million contribution to shipping companies with collective agreements, for welfare and training, said Ms Liew.
Mr Chan, who is also Minister in the Prime Minister's Office, said: "If we upskill our people and train them well, there will be higher productivity and gain sharing, as more higher-value jobs will be created."