Innovation and talent among themes of this year's Maritime Week

Mr Khaw Boon Wan trying out a user-friendly size daching, used to weigh herbs and other fine ingredients in traditional Chinese medicine, during a tour of the Singapore Maritime Week Exhibition on April 7, 2019.
Mr Khaw Boon Wan trying out a user-friendly size daching, used to weigh herbs and other fine ingredients in traditional Chinese medicine, during a tour of the Singapore Maritime Week Exhibition on April 7, 2019.ST PHOTO: LIM YAOHUI

SINGAPORE - Industry leaders attending this year's Singapore Maritime Week will do so at a time when digital disruption and the challenges of globalisation are shaking up the sector.

Coordinating Minister for Infrastructure Khaw Boon Wan, who attended the opening of the event on Sunday (April 7), noted that there are many unanswered questions about the industry's future.

"What will the shipping industry be like in 20 years? Who will be the new mega players?" said Mr Khaw, who is also Transport Minister.

Other questions include how policymakers can facilitate orderly transformation and how workers should prepare themselves for the future, he said.

Around 40,000 people are expected to attend the nine-day event, during which a series of conferences and workshops will be held to discuss different aspects of the industry.

These include the Singapore Maritime Lecture on Monday afternoon, where Trade and Industry Minister Chan Chun Sing will speak about global and regional developments in the industry.

An exhibition at Marina Square's central atrium will also allow visitors to trace Singapore's maritime history as well as get a sense of what the country's "next-generation port" could look like.

The theme for this year's event is driving connectivity, innovation and talent, which underpins Singapore's standing as a global maritime hub, according to the Maritime and Port Authority of Singapore (MPA) which is organising the event.

MPA chief executive Quah Ley Hoon said the industry faces challenges including the rapid pace of change and the need to draw talent into the sector.

"Nobody has a very precise or clear vision of where the industry will head, but there are investment decisions we need to make for the long term," she said.

The Tuas mega port, which is scheduled to open progressively from 2021 to 2040, is an example of such an investment, Ms Quah said.

Another issue is getting Singaporeans interested in what the maritime sector has to offer, she said. "If you are working in the maritime sector in Singapore, you are working in the heart of the world."

One of those who has chosen to forge her way in the sector is 24-year-old Laura Wong, an operations executive with shipping firm Wilhelmsen.

Ms Wong said that she initially had the impression that the sector was "very traditional" until she did an internship with her current company. "It's a very dynamic industry," she said.