SINGAPORE - In the future, Jurong Port could become a hub for cargo deliveries via drones between Singapore and nearby ships.
This possibility will be explored by mobility firm Skyports and Jurong Port, under a recent memorandum of understanding (MOU) inked between the two parties.
Under the MOU, the two organisations will commence joint studies over the next year to look into the feasibility of cargo drone delivery operations and related infrastructure at Jurong Port.
In a joint statement issued on Friday (May 20), Skyports and Jurong Port said the collaboration will draw on Skyports' expertise in building take-off and landing infrastructure for cargo deliveries by drones, to explore how drone delivery technology can be integrated into existing port operations.
In the statement, Skyports' head of Asia-Pacific Tay Yun Yuan said: "Tremendous progress has been made in the arena of maritime drone delivery services over the past year, and infrastructure development is the next critical step to truly realising the vast opportunities afforded by large-scale drone delivery services."
The MOU announcement comes as this year's iteration of the Smart Port Challenge (SPC) was launched on Friday.
This annual maritime technology competition puts up challenge statements in areas related to the maritime sector, and invites participants to submit proposals on solutions to address these problems or other maritime-related concerns.
It is organised by Port Innovation Ecosystem Reimagined @ Block71, or Pier71, a collaboration between the Maritime and Port Authority of Singapore and National University of Singapore's (NUS) entrepreneurial arm NUS Enterprise, which aims to grow Singapore's maritime innovation ecosystem.
Shortlisted start-ups may be eligible for a grant of up to $50,000 to pilot their projects.
On Friday, 11 firms - which participated in the competition in previous years - received the grant. This brings the total number of SPC participants that have gotten the grant to 50, with over $2.45 million given out since the first edition of the competition in 2017.
There are 15 challenge statements this year, covering concerns such as crew safety, training and well-being, as well as green technology.
Start-ups have until July 8 to submit their proposals.
Speaking at Friday's event, Senior Minister of State for Transport Chee Hong Tat said this year's challenge statements focus on three key issues for the maritime sector.
First, companies are looking for solutions that enhance supply chain efficiency, visibility and resilience.
"This topic has gained renewed urgency amidst the uncertainties in global trade over the last two years," he said.
Firms are also keen to leverage technology to enhance productivity and operational efficiency, such as solutions that can augment the skill and accuracy of human quay crane operators.
The third issue involves finding ways to improve the safety and well-being of maritime workers, including enhancing the quality of drinking water on board marine vessels.
"I welcome innovators from around the world, both from within and beyond the maritime sector... to join us in applying your ingenuity to tackling these important challenges," said Mr Chee.