Targets for sea transport industry plan scaled down due to weaker economy

A new plan has a more modest aim of growing the sector by $2 billion and creating 1,000 jobs from 2020 to 2025. ST PHOTO: LIM YAOHUI

SINGAPORE - The targets set out in an industry plan for the maritime sector in 2018 have been significantly scaled down after the pandemic, with the Maritime and Port Authority of Singapore (MPA) citing "significant disruptions" to the global economy since then.

The Sea Transport Industry Transformation Map by MPA and its partners in the industry and unions had initially wanted to grow the sector by $4.5 billion and create 5,000 jobs between 2015 and 2025.

But targets have now been reduced, The Straits Times has learnt. A new refreshed plan now has a more modest aim of growing the sector by $2 billion and creating 1,000 jobs from 2020 to 2025.

Deputy Prime Minister Heng Swee Keat announced the new targets on Monday (April 4) during the opening ceremony of the ongoing Singapore Maritime Week, although he did not explain whether or why the initial plan had been changed.

MPA said in response to ST queries: "There have been significant disruptions since 2018 to the global economy brought on by the heightened trade tensions, weak global growth, and the impact to trade from the Covid-19 pandemic.

"In view of the above developments... we have updated Industry Transformation Map targets. These targets take into account the increased risks to the global economy and trade flows."

MPA is aiming for an average growth of 2 per cent to 3 per cent annually, focusing on making Singapore's ports more resilient to supply chain disruptions and by pursuing newer, green technologies.

It wants to leverage its current position as a maritime hub to become a green shipping and financing hub, as well as a "catch-up" port to help delayed cargo make their connections.

Singapore is currently refreshing all 23 sectoral industry transformation maps. The one for sea transport is the first to have been changed.

Changes in the aims for other sectors may also be announced with time.

The shipping industry was one of the most resilient sectors in the past few years, taking much less of a hit from the pandemic than aviation and other sectors.

It carried 80 per cent of global trade last year - a record high - and high demand for shipping pushed shipping fees to four times their pre-pandemic rate.

But observers have warned that shipping fees cannot stay at current levels, and some operators are already beginning to worry that their ships coming onstream in the next few years will be underutilised by the time they begin operations if there is a glut of new vessels.

The pressure to decarbonise is also a huge unknown factor for many operators, which may stymie investments and growth as they hedge to await more certainty from new and cleaner fuels that are being tested.

This article has been edited for clarity

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