Prior to joining the Maritime and Port Authority of Singapore last year, I was a submariner in the Republic of Singapore Navy. During my 27-year career with the Navy, I was given the privilege of commanding two submarines and the submarine squadron. Hence, I have personal experience with safety at sea, as well as an intimate knowledge of what it is like being underwater – definitely not by accident, but by deliberate design. For us submariners, safety to us can be distilled to a very basic equation. The number of dives must equal to the number of surfaces.

But safety is certainly more than a basic equation. It requires an entire ecosystem to work together – from the leadership, to systems and processes, to culture and to individuals within the organisation – and how everyone has a part to play. Most of us should have had the opportunity to travel on board a Boeing 737 aeroplane. Do you know how many different components there are in a 737? 367,000! Just imagine the discipline, expertise, precision, synchronisation and competency needed to put them altogether to make it work. And we don’t think about it before we board a plane. There is inherent trust in the entire ecosystem that ensures the safety of the plane and its passengers.


Overview of the [email protected] Singapore Campaign

Allow me to share a bit about the [email protected] Singapore Campaign, why it is important for MPA to take the lead, what are the key focus areas, and how you can be a part of this effort to ensure safer seas for all.

Shipping is the backbone of our global economy. 90% of world trade today is carried by some 50,000 merchant ships, and manned by more than 1 million seafarers. It is estimated that the global cruise industry carried about 27 million passengers per year. But what’s really mind-boggling is that the global ferry industry transports some 2.1 billion passengers per year. That’s almost equivalent to 30% of the world’s population!

Therefore, it goes without saying that safety at sea not only prevents economic losses, but more importantly, protects people and the environment from harm.


No Room For Complacency

The good news is that working collectively as a global shipping community, we have seen the number of ship losses at sea falling steadily over the past decade. According to the Safety and Shipping Review 2018 by Allianz Global Corporate and Speciality, shipping losses have declined by 38% - from 151 in 2008 to 94 in 2017.

And according to the European Maritime Safety Agency’s (EMSA) Annual Overview of Marine Casualties and Incidents 2018, the number of fatalities have also declined from 2015. However, we note that cargo ships and fishing vessels account for most of these fatalities. In addition, fatalities occurred mainly during a flooding, floundering or collision which are typical navigational events.

Injuries, on the other hand, have not seen a similar decline and the numbers have remained steady in the past 3 years. It is noteworthy that in terms of injury distribution based on vessel type, passenger ships saw the most, followed by cargo ships and fishing vessels in that order.

Similar to fatalities, more than half of the injuries occurred during navigational events like contact, collision and grounding. Hence, just by looking at the available data, we can observe that navigational safety is a key area of concern.

In the process of investigating thousands of accidents and finding out why they occur, in terms of root causes, it was found that human error accounted for more than half of the accidents.

So broadly, from these statistics which I have highlighted, maritime safety has indeed made notable improvements in some areas. Such an improvement is only possible when each and every one of us takes personal responsibility to put safety first. However, one accident is still one too many, and we as a global maritime community must not be complacent and we must continue to work at this.

Singapore, as a key hub port and a littoral state to a busy international waterway, has always made safety at sea a critical area of focus. Safety is therefore no less important as competitiveness, growth, efficiency, sustainability and security of the port. There were more than 830,000 vessel movements in our waters last year. Despite the heavy traffic, the number of major incidents has dropped over the last ten years, from about 1 incident per

100,000 vessel movements in 2008 to less than 0.3 last year.


Focusing On Navigational Safety And The Human Element

The [email protected] Singapore Campaign aims to address the two major areas of concern decisively – navigational safety and the human element – through three key objectives as shown. Hence, the Campaign is an industry-wide effort to increase awareness of safe practices and inculcate a safety-first culture at sea. As part of the framework, MPA will work with the maritime community on instilling a strong safety culture, enhancing communication and information sharing, and improving the safe passage of vessels.

Launched in 2014, the Singapore Campaign has seen key milestones over the past 5 years with the creation of the National Maritime Safety at Sea Council in 2015, the organisation of the 1st International [email protected] Conference in 2016 with our Minister of Transport Mr Khaw Boon Wan as the Guest of Honour and IMO Secretary-General Mr Kitack Lim as the keynote speaker. Last year, we saw the production of the Ferry Safety Video and the inaugural Community of Practice Forum on maritime safety. This year, the highlight was an industry co-funding framework to enhance the Life Saving Appliances on board MPA-licensed regional ferries and a revamp of the MPA [email protected] Awards.


The Three Pillars of [email protected] Campaign

There are three key pillars that underpin the Singapore Campaign. The first is the National Maritime [email protected] Council which was formed in June 2015 with a 15-member advisory body to MPA on maritime safety matters. The second is the MPA-Industry Safety Working Groups which are designed to discuss safety issues and initiatives for specific maritime sectors. And the third is the International Safety at Sea Week in Singapore to serve as a focal point for the maritime community to come together to learn and share ideas on maritime safety. Let me elaborate a little on each pillar.

The National Maritime [email protected] Council spearheads and sustains safety efforts at the national level, as well as evaluates and endorses safety initiatives. The NMSSC is chaired by RADM(Ret) Richard Lim, a former Chief of Navy of the Republic of Singapore Navy and a former Chief Executive of the Defence Science and Technology Agency amongst his many key appointments throughout his career. The vice-chairman is Mr Michael Phoon, the Executive Director of the Singapore Shipping Association. The other members of the council include professionals from across the maritime industry. Since 2015, they have been working with members of the maritime industry in Singapore and overseas to help raise safety standards.

There are currently 5 MPA-Industry Working Groups, in collaboration with the Singapore Shipping Association with more than 450 corporate members in the shipping industry; with the Association of Regional Ferry Operators representing 8 regional ferry operators with almost 60 ferries that transport more than 6.5 million passengers between Singapore and various destinations in Malaysia and Singapore; with the Harbour Craft community because of the relatively large number of harbour craft in Singapore waters; with the Pleasure Craft community as well as with PSA-Marine that provides pilotage services. With these key stakeholder groups, MPA works closely on specific areas of concern and implement the necessary measures to enhance safety.

Last but not least, the third pillar is the International [email protected] Week. Key events held during the week are the flagship international conference, exhibition booths display, thematic workshops, industry visits, a Speaker’s Dinner and a safety awards presentation. This year, it was held in June and we had the privilege of Dr Heike Deggim, Ms Heike Deggim, Director of the Maritime Safety Division at IMO, Commander Hideki Noguchi, Chairman, e-Navigation Committee at IALA, Mr Sobantu Tilayi, Acting Chief Executive Officer, South African Maritime Safety Authority (SAMSA), Ms Lee Yeon-seung, President & CEO, Korea Ship Safety & Technology Authority amongst many other distinguished speakers to speak on various maritime safety topics. It was also great to see more than 15 exhibitors participating in the maritime safety exhibition to showcase the latest technological developments to enhance safety in the area of systems and training. The next International Safety at Sea Week will be held next year from 26 to 30 August.


Other Initiatives

Besides our three key pillars, MPA’s Safety Inspectorate department is responsible for leading and executing various campaign initiatives and measures to increase awareness and improve procedures. Let me highlight a few.

We have several new posters as part of a campaign besides the three pillars. So these were revamped this year and we had several initiatives to look at different aspects of near-miss reporting and revisions in terms of procedures within the Singapore port to make sure their proceeds are safer. We have a whole range of different initiatives that we have implemented to make sure that we can reach out to the entire maritime community. For Singapore, it represents 7% of our GDP and covers more than 5,000 maritime companies and more than 170,000 workers.



It is our hope that the future of maritime safety will be brighter and safer, and looking at the current trends, there is a quiet confidence that we can all achieve that.

A well-known American management guru once said, the late Mr Peter Drucker, that the best way to predict the future is to create it.

Hence, it won’t happen by accident. We need everyone to play their part to create this future, we can all make a difference!


Above text is an edited version of Mr. David Foo’s presentation during the SAFETY4SEA Conference in Singapore

View his video presentation herebelow


The views presented hereabove are only those of the author and not necessarily those of  SAFETY4SEA and are for information sharing and discussion  purposes only.


David Foo, Director (Port Systems), MPA Sigapore

Mr. David Foo, director (Port Systems), is in charge of the Port Systems Division which drives MPA’s efforts in Emergency Preparedness, Security and Safety. In addition, the division ensures the operational readiness of systems which support Vessel Traffic Services and plays a major role in planning and developing the next generation port systems. David joined MPA in July 2017 after retiring from the Republic of Singapore Navy. In his previous career, he spent 27 years as a naval officer and key appointments included being the Commanding Officer of two submarines as well as the submarine squadron.