SINGAPORE: Singapore's maritime sector is preparing to ride the wave of digitalisation as a means to further growth and navigate choppy waters, industry professionals said on Tuesday (Apr 2).
Speaking on the sidelines of a media briefing for the upcoming Singapore Maritime Week 2019, Ms Quah Ley Hoon, the chief executive of Maritime and Port Authority of Singapore (MPA), said that digitalisation is key to developing “a vibrant maritime ecosystem”, using new digital technologies in blockchain and big data.
Mr Michael Phoon, executive director of the Singapore Shipping Association (SSA), also said that digitalisation is the way forward, citing the transformation of other industries.
“As we grow and as we move towards innovation, we want to put the industry in a digitalisation and technology adoption phase,” said Mr Phoon.
Mr Phoon noted the transformation of the telecommunications sector from 4G to 5G networks, and how SMEs in the local shipping sector are already adopting robotic processes in day-to-day operations.
Mr Phoon said that going forward, drones could be used to transport small packages such as medicine or documents to and from ships docked in Singapore's ports.
Besides digitalisation and innovation, Ms Quah outlined two other thrusts MPA intends to focus on to build up Singapore’s shipping sector.
The first would be to further boost Singapore’s connectivity and interlinkages.
“Already we are linked with 600 ports in over 120 countries, but more needs to be done to widen the number and deepen the partnerships,” added Ms Quah.
The other thrust would be to improve the local talent pool to “build a future-ready and skilled maritime workforce”.
The maritime sector faces several challenges, including an uncertain global economy and potentially additional tit-for-tat tariffs from the US-China trade spat.
Another major roadblock to growth would be the onset of tighter regulations. This includes the International Maritime Organisation (IMO) sulphur cap set to be introduced in 2020, as well as greenhouse gas emissions.
There are, however, also opportunities for growth, particularly in shipbuilding and repair.
“Unlike the aviation industry, ships are not manufactured by two major companies," said Mr Phoon.
"They are manufactured by multiple companies, multiple suppliers. From a ship management perspective, managing spare parts is a nightmare. Using technology, supplies can be printed on demand.”
The upcoming Singapore Maritime Week is an annual event that will take place between Apr 6 and 14. More than 40,000 visitors are expected to attend the event.
This year’s edition will be grouped into three sections: issues affecting the sector, digitalisation efforts focusing on start-ups, as well as outdoor exhibitions that showcase Singapore’s shipping industry’s history and heritage.