SMEs in ship agency and harbour craft sectors can seek grants from $3.7 million fund to digitalise

Senior Minister of State for Transport Lam Pin Min speaking at the Singapore Maritime Technology Conference at the Sands Expo and Convention Centre on April 10, 2019. ST PHOTO: GIN TAY

SINGAPORE - Firms in the ship agency and harbour craft sectors in the maritime industry can now tap a $3.7 million fund for digital solutions.

The fund is part of the Sea Transport Industry Digital Plan (IDP), which aims to help small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) in the sector digitalise, Senior Minister of State for Transport Lam Pin Min said on Wednesday (April 10).

The IDP was announced by Dr Lam during the Ministry of Transport's Committee of Supply debate last month.

Speaking on Wednesday at the Singapore Maritime Technology Conference at the Sands Expo and Convention Centre, Dr Lam said the plan will provide SMEs with a step-by-step guide to digitalisation, and a list of digital solutions in areas such as vessel management and robotic process automation.

SMEs can choose the most suitable solution and apply for a grant.

The three broad stages in the IDP road map are getting ready for a digital economy, growing in such an environment and leaping ahead.

More IDPs to help other maritime sectors will be rolled out in the coming years, Dr Lam said.

"Digitalisation can help businesses enhance service levels, create new value-add and, more importantly, attract and retain talent by appealing to younger and more tech-savvy job seekers," he added.

The plan was developed jointly by the Maritime and Port Authority of Singapore (MPA), the Infocomm Media Development Authority, Enterprise Singapore and SkillsFuture Singapore.

It is aligned to the Sea Transport Industry Transformation Map that was announced last year, and it is also part of the SMEs Go Digital Programme.

MPA chief executive Quah Ley Hoon said efforts such as the IDP can help firms to kick-start their digitalisation journey, and that the agency hopes that such efforts can take the maritime sector to a new level.

Two SMEs that are eligible to benefit from the plan told The Straits Times said that it would be helpful for them from an operational and financial point of view.

Ms Akanksha Batura Pai, head of strategic planning at Sinoda Shipping Agency, said: "This broadly at least gives you some sort of way to know that you are now on the journey to digitalisation, or you have graduated from a certain stage, so it gives you that empowerment."

Mr Kieu Kim Sen, managing director of York Launch Service, which provides water transport services for ships, said he hopes to apply for the grant to co-fund a system that will help digitise his company's order taking process.

"Costing and funding is definitely something that a company has to consider before embarking on a project, so by having the proper funding and help from government agencies, it helps us to start better on our digitalisation journeys," he said.

On Wednesday, Dr Lam also announced the Singapore Maritime Research and Development Roadmap, which sets the direction for the maritime sector till 2030.

Five key areas of focus were outlined in the road map. This includes making Singapore the most efficient smart port in the world and making the country the centre of excellence for sea traffic management.

It also aims to develop Singapore as a leading hub for smart fleet operations and autonomous vessels, build up maritime security, and develop capabilities in energy and environmental solutions.

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