SINGAPORE: Nobody can exactly predict the effect of digitisation on the maritime sector, but Coordinating Minister for Infrastructure Khaw Boon Wan said Singapore will have to get ready for the changes it presents, and take steps to ride the wave of the industry's transformation.
Speaking at the opening of the Sea Asia 2017 conference and exhibition on Tuesday (Apr 25), Mr Khaw highlighted the blurring lines between shipping, e-commerce and logistics, and a need to change mindsets around connectivity.
Examples include retailers such as Amazon, who are looking to launch their own shipping, and logistics operations and e-commerce giant Alibaba, whose partnerships with shipping firms Maersk and CMA CGM allow shippers to book space on container ships online.
He said these developments have sparked talk about the emergence of new trade routes or multi-hub networks in the longer term, where “no single hub will enjoy superior connectivity”.
“Shifting shipping alliances, changing distribution methods, and evolving global trade routes may mean it is more important to be part of an interconnected port network than to compete to be the biggest hub port,” said Mr Khaw. “Rather than seeing each other as competitors, we may have to learn to collaborate more with one another.”
He listed several initiatives by local authorities to help companies here develop the required capabilities for future success, including the Maritime and Port Authority's (MPA) enhanced Maritime Cluster Fund to provide more co-funding for companies that want to use technology to optimise their processes, or transform their business model entirely.
"There is also a cross-Government effort to develop the next-generation National Trade Platform, which will be an integrated, one-stop digital platform connecting shippers, shipping lines, the port, Government agencies and logistics players," said Mr Khaw.
"These initiatives will deepen collaboration along supply chains, and strengthen linkages within the trade, shipping and logistics eco-systems in Singapore. They will enable Singapore to play a bigger role in new areas such as e-fulfilment and multi-modal connectivity."
Sea Asia 2017 is Asia's largest maritime and offshore conference and exhibition, with more than 16,000 people from more than 80 countries expected to take part in this year’s three-day conference and exhibition.