$27m support package to tide maritime sector over coronavirus pandemic

The Singapore maritime industry will get $27 million in aid to tide it over the coronavirus outbreak, the Maritime and Port Authority of Singapore (MPA) announced late on Wednesday night.

The MaritimeSG Together Package, which is meant for shipping companies, Singaporean seafarers and people undergoing maritime training, kicks in today and is on top of relief measures already announced under the three "extraordinary" budgets.

Ships in the Port of Singapore are also encouraged to sound their horns for 15 seconds at noon today, Labour Day, as a tribute to seafarers keeping supply chains and maritime trade going amid the Covid-19 pandemic.

"In these challenging times, we wish to show our appreciation to maritime personnel, especially seafarers, and stand in solidarity to ensure that global trade and supply lines stay resilient to support pandemic response around the world," said MPA chief executive Quah Ley Hoon.

It is timely that more support be offered in the midst of increasing disruption to the industry, she added.

For starters, the 500 or so Singaporean seafarers can apply for up to $800 a month in financial assistance if they cannot get shipboard employment between May 1 and July 31.

The authority said it has been facilitating the return of Singaporeans who wish to end their tour of duty when their ships call at Singapore.

To help vessel owners and cargo vessel operators, it will provide an additional 30 per cent port dues concession for cargo vessels from May 1 to Dec 31, on top of all existing port dues concessions.

During the same period, a 30 per cent port dues concession will also be granted to all non-passenger-carrying harbour craft in the Port of Singapore.

Regional ferry operators will get a 50 per cent rebate, up from 35 per cent, on counter rentals and overnight berthing at Tanah Merah Ferry Terminal till Dec 31. The previously announced rebate of 35 per cent was slated to last for three months from March.

Maritime companies will also get some relief from financial pressures.

MPA said it recognised that they may face challenges in managing cash flows and meeting financial obligations, and it will exercise flexibility in credit management measures till the end of the year.

Under the package, MPA will also provide a one-time increase of $50,000 to its annual contribution of $150,000 to seafarer welfare associations this month. The annual grant supports a wide range of welfare services including free counselling services and pastoral care, which are available online.

"We hope that the seafarer's relief package will help soften the impact of this unprecedented situation by easing the financial burden that affects our seafarers," said Singapore Maritime Officers' Union (SMOU) general secretary Mary Liew, who is also president of the National Trades Union Congress.

MPA, the Employment and Employability Institute, SMOU and the Singapore Organisation of Seamen are also jointly providing $10,000 to eligible Certificate of Competency Class 1 holders, who can clock at least six months of sea experience as chief officers or second engineers from January to December this year.

To keep maritime cadets on track, the Singapore Maritime Academy and MPA will also be flexible on curriculum requirements and conduct online training.

Looking ahead, MPA will seek to encourage retraining, support maritime companies with new manpower schemes, and increase its co-funding support under selected Maritime Cluster Fund programmes.

"The MaritimeSG Together Package aims to provide targeted support for the maritime companies, individuals and seafarers," said Ms Quah.

"They have been working tirelessly to keep our ports open and cargoes going."

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 01, 2020, with the headline $27m support package to tide maritime sector over coronavirus pandemic. Subscribe