Budget debate: Maritime sector to receive $20 billion in investments by 2024, new jobs to be created

The Tuas Port project, when fully operational, will be as large as two Ang Mo Kios. PHOTO: ST FILE

SINGAPORE - Singapore's maritime sector can expect $20 billion in investments from industry players by 2024. This will create more jobs here, said Senior Minister of State for Transport Chee Hong Tat on Friday (March 5).

The number of maritime tech start-ups will also more than triple from 30 to 100 by 2025, while a new programme will be launched to develop leaders with knowledge of key maritime issues and strong business networks.

Speaking in Parliament during the debate on the budget of the Ministry of Transport, Mr Chee said: "We aim to bring in $20 billion in total business spending commitments from maritime companies from 2020 to 2024, and create more jobs and opportunities for our people."

These will be in areas including maritime law and arbitration, ship management and marine insurance.

He outlined three targets for the local maritime ecosystem to strive towards - to be integrated, innovative and inclusive.

The maritime sector here did well last year, handling 36.9 million twenty-foot equivalent units (TEUs), and growing in scale and diversity, said Mr Chee.

"We attracted 11 new shipping groups to Singapore, and worked with eight maritime companies to expand their operations here," he said.

To build on the momentum and seize new opportunities to stay ahead of the competition, the maritime sector here has to become an integrated ecosystem.

Providing an update on the mega Tuas Port project, Mr Chee said: "We are on track to complete the first phase of land reclamation works by end of this year."

The Tuas Port project will bring together port operator PSA's operations in Pasir Panjang, Keppel and Brani, and when fully operational, will be as large as two Ang Mo Kios.

It will be able to handle up to 65 million TEUs a year, 50 per cent more than Singapore's current capacity.

The facility will be fully automated, with features such as automated cranes and driverless vehicles.

"These will more than double our labour productivity at Tuas, compared to our City Terminals, and create many skilled jobs for Singaporeans in the port sector. It will also be a greener port, with a 50 per cent reduction in carbon emissions intensity," he said.

The concept of integration will also extend beyond the port, to key sectors like advanced manufacturing, cold chain and logistics, said Mr Chee.

This will form a Tuas Port ecosystem where containers can be moved directly between ships and factories, without additional delays or handling costs.

"We are also enhancing digital integration to facilitate data exchange, helping companies to enjoy greater convenience, reduce costs and save time," he added.

The Government plans to develop the Tuas South region for industrial use over the next two decades, and will continue to explore viable transport options for workers there, and also work with the Ministry of National Development to increase public housing options in the west, he said.

Mr Chee told the House that the maritime sector has to be innovative. The Government will work with small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) to push research efforts and scale up their operations.

"We will increase the cap of co-funding support for maritime technology SMEs, from 50 per cent currently to 70 per cent, and encourage industry players to share expertise and resources to co-develop scalable solutions. Eligible projects by industry consortiums will also receive up to 70 per cent co-funding support," he said.

The Maritime and Port Authority will top up $15 million to the Maritime Innovation and Technology Fund, bringing the total funds available for maritime research and development, as well as product development, to $100 million.

"We aim to more than triple the number of maritime tech start-ups supported under the Pier71 funding programme, from 30 to 100 by 2025," said Mr Chee.

"Our goal is to be the top maritime start-up hub in the world, the Silicon Valley for maritime technology."

Mr Chee also said that the maritime sector should be inclusive, and create a diverse range of jobs for people with different backgrounds and skill sets.

"We want to attract and train more Singaporeans to take on seafaring and shore-based jobs," he said.

Moving forward, there will also be opportunities in the sector in areas such as environmental sustainability, systems engineering, cyber security and data analytics.

A new programme will also be launched to groom future leaders for the maritime sector here, said Mr Chee.

"We are starting a new Maritime Leadership Programme to train up to 30 local maritime managers for the first two runs, to hone their leadership skills, build global perspectives on key maritime issues, and strengthen their business networks locally and abroad," he said.

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