MPA inks five pacts to drive transformation

Drones and artificial intelligence among technologies to be harnessed

The Keppel and Brani Terminal.
The Keppel and Brani Terminal.ST PHOTO: KUA CHEE SIONG

One of Singapore's oldest industries - shipping - is embracing the very newest technology and innovations, such as drones and artificial intelligence, under a slew of initiatives.

The Maritime and Port Authority (MPA) has just inked five agreements with industry players as it ramps up efforts to build up maritime technological capabilities.

The memoranda of understanding (MOUs) with local and global partners - including port operator PSA and Singapore Technologies Electronics (ST Electronics) - were signed yesterday at the opening of the Singapore Maritime Technology Conference.

"These MOUs aim to catalyse research and innovation as well as pilot adoption of emerging technologies and enhance information flow and connectivity within the maritime community," the MPA said.

It added in a press statement that the deals come as part of industry transformation efforts to drive competitiveness and new growth areas.

The MOU with PSA aims to renew the MPA-PSA Port Technology Research and Development Programme for a third term for three years. It was first signed in 2011.

Both parties will put in a combined $30 million to boost research and test-bedding of new technologies for the future Tuas terminal.

They will focus on testing and applying technologies such as artificial intelligence, data analytics, emulation, Internet of Things (IoT), cloud computing, blockchain, augmented reality and video analytics.

The aim is to build collaborative business platforms, optimise operations and develop smart port equipment and systems and automation. The programme will support initiatives under the PSA unboXed incubator scheme too.

The MPA also extended an earlier agreement with Jurong Port relating to new port technologies for a second term of another five years.

Now renamed the Next Generation Multipurpose Port Programme, it has been expanded to include innovation and productivity initiatives, the application of data analytics and IoT, as well as projects to drive environmental sustainability, and safety and security. The MPA and Jurong Port have each allocated $8 million to the joint programme.

The MPA is also teaming up with ST Electronics on projects to improve port and shipping operations, and develop technology standards with industry partners. They will look at vessel traffic-management systems, intelligent systems for shipping operations, and auto- nomous operations and robotics.

Two other MOUs look at the development of smart ships. The first is with Lloyd's Register on maritime technology R&D, and the other is a four-party tie-up with Alpha Ori, Lloyd's Register and NUS' Technology Centre for Offshore and Marine.

The quartet aim to set up a Centre of Innovation and conduct joint research in data analytics for smart shipping, the use of robotics and unmanned systems in ports and shipping for operations, maintenance and inspections in hazardous zones, and maritime cyber security.

MPA chief executive Andrew Tan said all five agreements will help bring the maritime sector into its next stage of development, where data analytics, intelligent systems and IoT will open up new opportunities for port operators here, companies and research institutions to develop innovative solutions.

"We believe the time is ripe to leverage new technologies to ensure Maritime Singapore stays ahead of the curve as a world-class port and international maritime centre," he said.

At a separate interview with reporters, he said he hopes the upcoming Tuas port will be able to feature technologies that emerge from such collaboration. Drones, for example, can be used for the maintenance of cranes or to inspect ships.

"There are limitless possibilities," he said. "In solving our own challenges, we're also creating opportunities for ourselves to build up future capabilities that can then be exported as solutions to other parts of the world."

The Singapore Maritime Technology Conference at Marina Bay Sands is held in conjunction with the Singapore Maritime Week. It is a showcase of prominent maritime and port technology trends and developments, and ends today.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on April 28, 2017, with the headline 'MPA inks five pacts to drive transformation'. Print Edition | Subscribe