Why It Matters

Timely push for maritime sector

The new road map to ready Singapore's maritime industry for the future comes with ambitious goals.

The Sea Transport Industry Transformation Map (ITM), launched last Friday, aims to grow the industry's value-add by $4.5 billion and create more than 5,000 good jobs by 2025.

It lays out specific initiatives for Singapore to become a global maritime hub for connectivity, innovation and talent.

The move to make sure that Maritime Singapore stays ahead of the game is timely, given how quickly change - particularly in the form of digitalisation - is affecting the industry. At the same time, neighbouring countries are ramping up plans for infrastructure projects or even new trading routes.

So Singapore, which has already built up success as a key trade conduit globally, cannot rest on its laurels. To snooze is to lose.

A key component of Singapore's game plan is the upcoming mega port in Tuas, which will be able to move up to 65 million standard containers of cargo a year when completed in 2040.

Indeed, the Port of Singapore has done well to anchor major shipping players here last year, such as CMA CGM. But cost will always be a big consideration for businesses, which means that the Republic will have to do more to maintain its edge, given that it is not known to compete on costs.

This is why keeping skills and capabilities in the maritime workforce up to date is another crucial aspect the ITM will focus on to support a sector that employs more than 170,000 people and accounted for 7 per cent of the economy last year.

Most of the 5,000 new jobs to be created under the ITM will be professional, manager, executive and technician roles, spelling better prospects for those in the industry as well as new entrants.

Certain parts of the maritime industry are still paper-intensive or dependent on manual labour, which means there is huge potential for automation and digitalisation. But workers will have to upgrade their skills. The need for a strategic plan to ride the waves of change has never been more important.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 17, 2018, with the headline 'Timely push for maritime sector'. Print Edition | Subscribe