Maintaining Singapore's thriving maritime industry as a world leader is the central theme of an ambitious new blueprint for the sector unveiled yesterday.
It underlined just how vital the industry is for the economy while also laying out the challenges it faces to maintain and strengthen its position amid fierce global competition.
The Sea Transport Industry Transformation Map (ITM), as the strategy is called, noted that Singapore starts from a position of strength.
Container throughput rose 8.9 per cent to 33.7 million containers last year, while the maritime industry as a whole employed more than 170,000 people and contributed 7 per cent to the economy.
"While 2017 was a better year than the last, we watch with cautious optimism, as the road ahead remains challenging. Indeed, we have to continue to paddle hard to stay ahead," said Dr Lam Pin Min, Senior Minister of State for Transport and for Health.
He made it clear that major changes lie ahead, from port workers upgrading skills to management grappling with radical new technology. The sector is in for "real and deep transformation over the next few years", he noted.
"We must fundamentally relook the way we operate... as well as the kind of capabilities our maritime workforce needs," he said.
The ITM has an overarching vision: to make Singapore a global maritime hub for connectivity, innovation and talent. That, in turn, means expanding the sector's value-add by $4.5 billion and creating over 5,000 good jobs by 2025.
Dr Lam said at the ITM launch ceremony at PSA Pasir Panjang Terminal Building 3: "We not only have to continue to deliver world-class port services, we must also capture new growth opportunities."
One key strategy is to build up a well-connected international maritime centre cluster. That will involve the Government continuing to boost the port's physical connectivity by anchoring and attracting shipping lines here.
More initiatives, such as the inaugural Maritime Capital Forum last year, will also be rolled out to develop the maritime financing landscape here.
Another key thrust is to drive growth through better productivity and innovation, particularly by using automation and digitalisation.
The Maritime and Port Authority of Singapore (MPA) is developing technology platforms to facilitate the sharing of vessel and cargo-related information with the wider trading community.
It is also looking at digitalising trade and maritime documentation, like using electronic bills of lading.
The Singapore Maritime Institute will invest $12 million to set up the Centre of Excellence in Modelling and Simulation for Next Generation Ports that will enhance the Singapore port's ability to handle increasingly complex operations.
The Government will do more to bring well-trained personnel into the industry, said Dr Lam, adding that most of the 5,000 new jobs to be created will be professional, manager, executive and technician roles.
Those in more traditional jobs will undergo skills upgrading as jobs evolve with increasing automation and digitalisation.
This year, two maritime SkillsFuture Earn and Learn programmes launched earlier in 2016 will be open to more graduates, enabling junior seafarers to deepen their skills to take on higher-level jobs.
The ITM is the first of eight road maps to be launched this year. A total of 15 ITMs have already been set in motion as part of a $4.5 billion industry transformation package announced in Budget 2016.
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