Automation and tech to be hallmark of new Tuas Port

The Tuas Port site in the south-western corner of Singapore is about twice the size of Ang Mo Kio.
The Tuas Port site in the south-western corner of Singapore is about twice the size of Ang Mo Kio.ST PHOTO: KELVIN CHNG
Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong and five-year-old Hana Romiza Muhamad Reduan placing a torch on the grounds of Tuas Port yesterday to symbolise the start of a new chapter in Singapore's maritime history. With them were (from left) former PSA chairman
Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong and five-year-old Hana Romiza Muhamad Reduan placing a torch on the grounds of Tuas Port yesterday to symbolise the start of a new chapter in Singapore's maritime history. With them were (from left) former PSA chairman Fock Siew Wah, PSA International group chief executive Tan Chong Meng, PSA International group chairman Peter Voser, Coordinating Minister for Infrastructure and Minister for Transport Khaw Boon Wan, Senior Minister of State for Transport Lam Pin Min and former PSA chairman Stephen Lee. ST PHOTO: KELVIN CHNG

Even as Tuas Port adopts tech, maritime industry will still require talent to fill jobs

You will see many machines at work when the Tuas Port fully begins operations in 2040.

But you will probably not see fewer humans, though the machines such as drones and self-driving vehicles will do some of their work for them.

Automated guided vehicles will ply the port facility. Highly mano-euvrable, they can self-navigate to within 5cm accuracy. They are also fully electric and energy efficient, as they can operate for up to five hours with 20 minutes of charging.

Drones will be deployed to inspect equipment, check infrastructure, respond to incidents and also for surveillance of the port perimeter, among other things.

Tuas Port plans to be efficient and environmentally sustainable, with smart engineering and power management platforms.

For example, data analytics will be used to make maintenance schedules for equipment and parts more efficient, reducing unnecessary inspections and downtime.

Mr Peter Voser, group chairman of PSA International, said the Tuas project is an opportunity for PSA to take the lead in transforming the industry by going beyond just physical port infrastructure into complementary logistics capabilities.

"As we continue to pioneer new and exciting integration concepts in the supply chain, we see them as enablers of tight global connections, as well as supporting Singapore as a key international maritime centre and a centre for technology research and development," said Mr Voser.

 
 
 

At the port's ground-breaking ceremony yesterday, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said PSA needs to maintain its dynamism in the face of global competition, and encouraged young Singaporeans to consider careers in the maritime industry, which he called "critical" to Singapore's economy.

This includes jobs in PSA, the Maritime and Port Authority of Singapore, or companies in the industry, including start-ups that have been incubating in Pier71, a hub focused on the maritime industry.

"You have the opportunity to write the next chapter of Singapore's maritime history, and fill it with your hopes and dreams," he said.

Dr Loh Hui Shan, lecturer in the logistics and supply chain management programme at the Singapore University of Social Sciences' business school, said automation would not take away jobs.

"It assists humans. Accidents can happen at the port. For example, there are cranes picking up containers and moving them overhead. Automation aims to lower any potential dangers that a port worker may be exposed to. So, from the human safety point of view, it is ideal for automation to take over certain tasks in such working environments."

She added that it can improve productivity as well. For example, instead of having one crane operator controlling one crane, that same person can now control multiple cranes at once.

Retraining and skills upgrading will be needed for staff to be able to perform the new types of jobs, added Dr Loh.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 04, 2019, with the headline 'Automation and tech to be hallmark of new port'. Print Edition | Subscribe