Budget debate: $300m to cut carbon emissions for shipping industry over the next 10 years

As technology progresses, all domestic harbour crafts should be running either on net zero fuels or electricity by 2050. ST PHOTO: KUA CHEE SIONG

SINGAPORE - At least $300 million will be pumped into reducing emissions for the maritime industry here over the next 10 years, as Singapore seeks to take the lead on green shipping, leveraging its well-established role as a global cargo and refuelling hub.

Transport Minister S. Iswaran on Wednesday (March 9) said that this will be invested into programmes under a new blueprint, which has key aims including achieving net zero emissions at all port terminals by 2050.

It will also go towards making Singapore more ready for a multi-fuel future - an unprecedented situation in the centuries-old shipping industry - in which a range of marine fuels like biofuels, methanol, ammonia and even hydrogen may be used by different ships.

As technology progresses, all domestic harbour crafts should be running either on net zero fuels or electricity by 2050.

By the same year, half of the ships flying the Singapore flag listed under the Singapore Registry of Ships - one of the world's biggest, with about 4,000 vessels - should also be certified green, meaning that they have found ways to reduce their carbon emissions.

Mr Iswaran said during the debate on his ministry's budget in Parliament: "International shipping accounts for about 3 per cent of global greenhouse gas emissions. Maritime centres like Singapore can play a meaningful role in achieving the emissions targets set by the International Maritime Organisation."

The blueprint comes after recommendations made by an international advisory panel last year and inputs from two-month long consultations conducted by the Maritime and Port Authority of Singapore (MPA).

In addition to 2050 goals, the blueprint has set more medium-term goals - at least a 60 per cent reduction in absolute emissions at port terminals by 2030 compared with 2005 levels, and a 15 per cent reduction in absolute emissions for domestic harbour craft by 2030 from 2021 levels.

The MPA said research on cleaner marine fuels and setting standards on issues like carbon accounting and reporting should also strengthen Singapore's value as an international maritime centre for the new age.

In April last year, the Government announced the setting up of a $120 million global decarbonisation centre to research and pilot programmes that can make greener shipping a reality.

This was set up in August and is now headed by Professor Lynn Loo, former director of Princeton University's Andlinger Centre for Energy and the Environment.

The global centre has already signed several partnerships, with a focus on quickly putting smaller-scale projects through real-life pilots to test their viability.

Responding to MPs’ questions on the maritime industry, Senior Minister of State for Transport Chee Hong Tat said MPA will use artificial intelligence and machine learning to manage the increasing scale and complexity of ship movements in Singapore’s waters, which see more than 1,000 vessels entering and exiting every day. 

The next-generation vessel traffic management system will be equipped with advanced smart collision detection capabilities, he said, and be based at the future port operations control centre in Tuas. It will be completed in 2025. 

There will also be 5G coverage in Singapore’s port waters. This will support the delivery of goods from Singapore’s shores to ships parked in anchorages through the use of drones, which are currently in commercial trials. 

“5G will support our vision to be the Silicon Valley of MarineTech, and be a game changer to differentiate our port from the competition,” he said. 

Widespread use of 5G applications in Singapore’s ports should become reality in the next two to three years, MPA said, and development of 5G coverage will be centred on the Maritime Drone Estate near Marina South Pier, which was set up last year for drone operators to test their wares. 

Mr Chee said career programmes in the maritime industry have led to around 200 mid-career workers making the switch to take up new maritime roles since 2018. 

MPA is also collaborating with Yellow Ribbon Singapore to train inmates in the harbour craft industry. 

Eight former offenders are already in the programme. “We hope to increase the number over time,” Mr Chee said. 

Join ST's WhatsApp Channel and get the latest news and must-reads.