In an exclusive interview to SAFETY4SEA, Ms Quah Ley Hoon, Chief Executive at MPA Singapore, sets key priorities for 2022 and refers to initiatives that aim to transform Singapore into a sustainable global hub port.
roviding an overview of how MPA Singapore tackled with COVID-19 challenges, Ms Quah Ley Hoon highlights the power of collaboration and shares her optimistic perspective that industry will successfully tackle the challenges ahead; be it decarbonisation, digitalisation or attracting young and diverse talent onboard.
SAFETY4SEA: What are the top priorities in the MPA’s agenda for next year? From your perspective, what are the key challenges that the maritime industry is currently facing?
Quah Ley Hoon: Maritime Singapore has had a good year in 2021, thanks to the collective efforts and contribution from my colleagues at the Maritime and Port Authority of Singapore (MPA), our partners in the maritime industry and unions. Singapore has maintained our lead in the Xinhua-Baltic International Shipping Centre Development Index as the world’s top maritime centre – for the eighth year running. In addition, the Port of Singapore was voted the “Best Global Seaport” for the first time in the Asia Freight, Logistics and Supply Chain Awards this year. In December 2021, Singapore was re-elected to the Council of the International Maritime Organization (IMO) for a 15th consecutive term.
Despite these achievements, MPA recognises that it is crucial that we must not rest on our laurels. Looking ahead, we will continue to focus on pushing for the maritime sector to make inroads in decarbonisation and digitalisation. Additionally, MPA will work alongside companies to build a steady pipeline of maritime talent to drive the industry’s growth. Decarbonisation, digitalisation, and talent attraction will continue to be MPA’s priorities in 2022. It is also no coincidence that these are some of the key challenges that the sector is facing right now.
S4S: What does the word ‘sustainability’ mean for the maritime industry? What are MPA’s goals & aspirations/ actions/ initiatives for a more sustainable future?
Q.L.H.: According to an IMO report, shipping accounts for nearly 3% of the worldwide CO2 emissions. However, scientists projected that maritime shipping could account for 17% of total annual CO12 emissions by 2050. And with this, the sustainability movement is making waves and rewriting the rules of every maritime player as well.
MPA is committed to the development of Singapore as a sustainable global hub port. The momentum on decarbonisation is accelerating in Singapore too.
To ensure that we meet IMO’s 2050 target of reducing total annual greenhouse gas emissions by at least 50% compared to 2008 levels, Singapore is leading efforts to promote the use of greener fuels such as liquefied natural gas as a viable and clean transitional marine fuel to reduce carbon emissions from ships.
Furthermore, to encourage ship owners and operators to adopt greener solutions, the Singapore Registry of Ships has rolled out a “Green” Notation which allows qualifying Singapore-flagged vessels to receive additional benefits, such as reduction in initial registration fees and tonnage taxes rebates.
No one can tackle decarbonisation alone. The global shipping community has to work together to build capacity, share best practices and ensure a level playing field for all to develop viable and scalable low-carbon marine fuels and other decarbonisation solutions.
With this in mind, MPA joined forces with six industry partners to establish the Global Centre for Maritime Decarbonisation (GCMD) with a S$120 million fund last August. GCMD will work with the industry to help reduce carbon emissions by shaping standards, deploying solutions, financing projects, and fostering collaboration across sectors.
Last September, MPA also collaborated with IMO to launch the NextGEN portal. This online portal serves as a “one-stop” portal to showcase the universe of maritime decarbonisation projects on a single platform and bring different stakeholders together. These include ports, governments, companies, international organisations and academia, to share knowledge on low- and zero-carbon fuels.
S4S: How is MPA facing the most challenging issues of digitisation? Are there any related initiatives/ projects/ actions planned?
Q.L.H.: Digitalisation is now a foundational strategic shift on all counts, not just at the individual level, but at the company, national and global level, involving all other sectors. Specific to the maritime industry, the pandemic has accelerated the pace of digitalisation in the industry. The pandemic has disrupted the supply chain ecosystem, and as the saying goes, if we do not disrupt, we will be disrupted.
MPA will build on the current [email protected]™ to help shipping lines reap more significant efficiency gains. Phase 2 of [email protected]™ will entail just-in-time (JIT) service for ships to optimise their port calls and improve ship turnaround time. The JIT platform will also be a single digital shopfront for booking marine services, including bunkering and towering.
Another digitalisation initiative by MPA would be the digitalOCEANS™ where individual data platforms of all the global supply chain community stakeholders and digital providers can exchange data and interoperate through a common set of Application Programme Interface (API). This will create a seamless exchange of data with ports and shipping-related platforms that will digitalise the port clearance process to further improve efficiencies for our port users and customers. The first set of API specifications on port clearance has been launched in November 2021 and can be found at www.digitaloceans.com.
S4S: What lessons has the industry learned with the pandemic? Where should we improve for a future crisis situation?
Q.L.H: MPA recognises the critical role that seafarers play in global seaborne trade to keep supply chains open. In particular, crew change is important to safeguard the health and safety of seafarers sailing onboard ships. Therefore, MPA has continued to facilitate crew change with the shipping community so that seafarers need not work beyond their contract duration or can sign on ships to work. Since March 2020, Singapore has facilitated close to 200,000 crew changes.
And to ensure that crew changes are conducted safely, Singapore Shipping Association, together with MPA, unions and international organisations established the Shipping Tripartite Alliance Resilience Fund (STAR Fund), the first global ground-up tripartite initiative to work with seafaring nations for safe crew changes. The STAR Fund Taskforce developed a CrewSafe audit programme with more than 30 accredited facilities in crew source nations with quality control checks to crew change processes across quarantine, medical, and testing facilities.
To further protect the health of frontline maritime workers, Singapore was one of the first countries to prioritise COVID-19 vaccinations for frontline and essential maritime personnel, including local seafarers as early as January 2021 and foreign seafarers since last August.
Whether it is to tackle the challenges arising from climate change, digitalisation or even the COVID-19 pandemic, MPA believes that the maritime industry needs to partner with one another and cooperate to succeed. We are heartened that our industry and tripartite partners have been supporting one another to overcome the challenges.
S4S: Considering the ongoing humanitarian crisis (due to the pandemic) and recent accidents (i.e. Ever Given), what does the younger generation think of the shipping industry? How should we work to raise industry’s profile to the next talents?
Q.L.H.: The shipping industry may have been hit by the crew change crisis and incidents like the Ever Given. However, the pandemic has also shown the resilience of the maritime industry, and importantly the ingenuity of the men and women in maritime in overcoming difficulties.
The maritime industry is an international business and the backbone of global trade and supply chains. With the shipping industry’s expansion plans, there will be a need for more skilled talents. The plus point is that the industry has new needs in areas like digitally-controlled operations, automation engineering, software development and sustainability – these are areas that appeal to the younger generation who are digitally-agile, technologically-savvy and passionate about creating a better greener world. But skilled and young talent also have many opportunities elsewhere, so the maritime industry must adapt in order to offer a compelling value proposition, and proactively showcase the prospects it has to offer.
MPA works hand in hand with the Singapore Maritime Foundation, industry players and our institutes of higher learning to promote maritime careers through talks and outreach. Furthermore, to equip workers for an automated, digitalised and green future, Singapore has also developed programmes to upgrade the skills of our maritime workforce across various job functions in port operations, shipping (including seafarers), and maritime services.
In November 2021, MPA and Workforce Singapore refreshed the Career Conversion Programme for Sea Transport Professionals and Associates targeted at mid-career switchers and existing Maritime workers who wish to undergo skills conversion and take on new roles in the areas of Port Operations, Shipping, and Maritime Services with good career prospects.
S4S: Do you have any projects/ plans you would like to share with industry stakeholders?
Q.L.H: Last November, MPA marked the completion of the first phase of the reclamation work for the next-generation port. When fully completed in the 2040s, the Tuas Port will be capable of handling up to 65 million twenty-foot equivalent units (TEUs) annually.
This is especially exciting for Maritime Singapore’s future, as we aim to make Tuas Port to be an automated, intelligent, and sustainable port, harnessing digital innovations and deploying automated and electrified port equipment.
Additionally, MPA will be organising the Singapore Maritime Week (SMW) from 4 to 8 April 2022. We will be holding a range of activities and events on key maritime issues during this annual event. We hope Safety4Sea’s readers will keep a lookout for the new, exciting announcements on decarbonisation, digitalisation and talents recruitment during SMW.
S4S: What are you looking forward to in 2022? What would you be most glad about seeing changing in the maritime industry next year?
Q.L.H.: The maritime industry will continue to face disruption and challenges in terms of decarbonisation, digitalisation and talent recruitment in the post-COVID world. However, the shipping industry has always been agile, and the pandemic has showed the industry’s resilience. I remain hopeful that the industry will be all hands-on deck to tackle the challenges ahead, be it decarbonisation, digitalisation or attracting young and diverse talent onboard.
Secondly, I am excited to share that Singapore has been re-elected into the Council of the IMO for a two-year term from 2022 to 2023. To reiterate what Mr S Iswaran, our Minister of Transport has said following our re-election: “Singapore will continue to work with all Member States and stakeholders to advance the IMO’s goals of facilitating safe, secure and sustainable shipping. We will continue our efforts in 2022 and beyond.”
The views presented are only those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of SAFETY4SEA and are for information sharing and discussion purposes only.