As maritime evolves to embrace digital transformation and sustainability amid a global environment that is becoming more complex, talent remains key to its growth. 

On the final day of Sea Asia 2021, SMF Board Member and Director of MPartners Lee Keng Mun moderated a session comprising panellists Mark Charman, CEO and Founder of Faststream Recruitment Group; Adonis Garefalakis, Director of People and Culture at The Signal Group; Linda Murray, Global Director of Human Resources & Facilities at AET; Lakhbir Singh, CEO of Orient Maritime Agencies; and Yi Jun Mock, Co-Founder & President of Advisory Singapore.

Drawing on their diverse background, the panellists shared their perspectives on shifting employment trends and how maritime can enhance its appeal to young talent, especially millennials and Gen Z.

The Evolving Aspirations of Talent

It comes as no surprise that the nature of work has morphed with digitalisation. This ranges from organisational structures to employee’s expectations and requirements, a phenomenon further exacerbated by the Covid-19 pandemic which has given time for people to “think and reflect on their priorities”, says Mr Charman. With its long history, Ms Murray highlights that the maritime industry has a “great proposition,” but the issue lies with its marketability. Her sentiments are echoed by Mr Charman, Mr Mock and Mr Garefalakis, who observes that talent seek purpose-driven and ESG-conscious organisations.

Business owners such as Mr Singh, have adjusted their hiring processes to cope in this dynamic climate. Mr Mock highlights how employees are now shifting from the pursuit of work-life balance towards work-life integration. Besides seeking work that “aligns with their mission”, “lattice mobility” that affords individuals to explore a variety of experiences beyond their job title is another area that youths are drawn towards. Interestingly, Mr Mock notes that instead of a generational divide between the work expectations of youths and seasoned individuals, it is the “same tendencies manifesting in different ways”.

The Competition for Talent

According to Mr Charman, come 2024, millennials and Gen Z will comprise 72% of the talent pool. Appealing to their interests has never been more pressing, especially in the race towards securing the best talent. One factor is a strong brand, says Mr Charman and Ms Murray. Citing MSC as an example, the organisation is “oversubscribed for talent” because they are leading the charge around green technology, a mission that resonates strongly with the crowd. 

Upon attracting the right people, organisations must provide them with opportunities to grow and inculcate a global mindset. Built upon international connectivity, a globally oriented corporation will be better equipped to “deal with challenges and attract talent from different sectors”, Ms Murray states.

Providing Maritime with a Facelift

However, building maritime’s brand is no mean feat. Mr Singh observes that the breadth of maritime makes it challenging to elucidate what the industry is about to young entrants. Without a foundational understanding, selling career opportunities will be a tougher task to undertake, a point Mr Mock concurs, noting that there is low awareness amongst youths.  

Yet this does not spell doom for maritime. Pivoting towards digitalisation, decarbonisation and sustainable development goals offers maritime a much-needed facelift. In fact, Mr Garefalakis feels that by branding maritime organisations around technology, the sector will continue to blossom. Riding on this new wave of change, Mr Mock believes in instilling a “love for the sea” among youths and viewing maritime as a passion.

In her concluding thoughts, Ms Murray cautions that a strong sustainability branding may bring in fresh faces but “making sure that diversity is rich within the organisation” is what makes them stay. As the world is increasingly interconnected, maritime must open its arms to welcome the experiences of individuals rowing in from other industries.

The race for new talent is not a sprint but a long marathon. To stay ahead of this race, maritime will require carefully calibrated action by various actors within the ecosystem. Green recruiting will undoubtedly be one of maritime’s key messages and Singapore is well poised to deliver it.

Head over to the MSC Office career portal to find your future in Maritime Singapore.

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In Conversation with Maritime Lawyers: Jonathan Choo

Maritime is home to a diverse group of sectors—maritime law being a key pillar in this ecosystem. Commonly perceived as a “dull” industry, the Singapore Maritime Foundation (SMF) seeks to address these misconceptions. Jonathan Choo is a Partner at Allen and Gledhill LLP where he specialises in non-contentious shipping issues. With his recent appointment as…

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Sea Asia 2021: Fireside Chat with Minister Iswaran

The biennial Sea Asia event is back for its 8th edition, virtually this time from 21 to 23 September 2021. As Asia’s leading maritime marketplace, Sea Asia 2021 serves as the prime platform for discussion on key issues at the intersection of decarbonisation, technology, innovation, and talent. 

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In Conversation with Maritime Lawyers: Charlene Sim

Maritime is home to a diverse group of sectors—maritime law being a key pillar in this ecosystem. Commonly perceived as a “dull” industry, the Singapore Maritime Foundation (SMF) seeks to address these misconceptions. Continuing our conversation with Maritime Lawyers, we speak with Charlene Sim, a Senior Legal Associate in the Marine Team at Kennedys. In…

Maritime is home to a diverse group of sectors—maritime law being a key pillar in this ecosystem. Commonly perceived as a “dull” industry, the Singapore Maritime Foundation (SMF) seeks to address these misconceptions.

Jonathan Choo is a Partner at Allen and Gledhill LLP where he specialises in non-contentious shipping issues. With his recent appointment as the International Maritime Organisation’s (IMO) Goodwill Ambassador, Jonathan shares on his maritime journey, the industry’s developments and why it is so special to him.

How did you first encounter maritime law?

My encounter with maritime law was purely fortuitous. I did not take any maritime law modules in law school. Back then, my focus was on general and commercial litigation. In fact, I started as a litigation pupil upon graduation, but decided to switch to ship finance during my pupillage.

I was fortunate that there was an opening at the ship finance practice at Allen & Gledhill LLP. My mentor, Gina Lee-Wan, interviewed me for the position before accepting me as her mentee. The interview lasted three hours, during which Gina shared her views on the maritime industry and cited examples of the many legal transactions she was involved in. That interview was probably my first encounter with maritime law. In fact, it was Gina’s passion for the maritime industry and maritime law during the interview that made me take the leap of faith into the practice of ship finance.

Was transitioning into maritime law without the background knowledge difficult?

As with many other legal practices, the learning curve was particularly steep at the beginning. Fortunately, I was able to acclimatise to the demands of practice largely due to Gina’s guidance and mentorship as well as the support of my colleagues who were always ready to help me when required during my early years of practice.

Whilst, it would definitely have helped if I had taken relevant maritime modules or done maritime focused internships during law school, I do not think that this is an absolute requirement to join a maritime practice. Therefore, students who, like me, did not do any maritime modules during law school should not be discouraged from considering or pursuing a career in maritime law.

What was the impression that you had of the practice of maritime law before you entered and how has it changed since?

My first impression was formed from an article by a maritime lawyer I read in school, recounting his ship arrest experience and how he almost fell into the sea while boarding the ship. This led to the impression that the practice of maritime law requires one to frequently arrest ships at high seas and deal with unfriendly crew, making it a potentially dangerous job.

This impression has since changed; the practice of maritime law is not confined purely to arrest work. The practice of maritime law encompasses a wide range of disciplines and specialisation, such as wet work, dry work, trade, insurance, enforcement work and finance. In addition, as maritime industry specialists, maritime practitioners may from time to time be required to advise or assist with restructuring and insolvency transactions or mergers and acquisitions transactions, where their nuanced maritime views are required. Also, I have since assisted with the arrest of a ship and the process of boarding a ship is nowhere near as dangerous as I had previously imagined.

Could you provide us with an overview of your job scope?

As a ship finance lawyer, my primary focus and job scope is financing work in the maritime space. This includes shipping loans or other alternative financing structures such as finance leases, and the restructuring of such financings. Apart from that, I often assist my colleagues from the other practices in transactions where specialised ship finance or drafting input is required.

What are some challenges that come with your current role?

The initial challenges when I first started out would be the steep learning curve. Apart from having to quickly upskill, having to quickly understand the various cultural nuances of our international clients was quite a challenge as well – this is necessary to effectively write and communicate with them.

The other challenges include the compressed timelines for transactions and the ever-evolving regulatory issues that impact the maritime industry, such as the green regulations and digitalisation. Whilst a challenge, the constant need to keep abreast with such new issues makes practising maritime law interesting.

Do you feel the interest in maritime has changed over the years among students?

Based on my recent interactions with students and interns, it would appear that the prevailing preference is towards practice areas such as Mergers & Acquisitions, Capital Markets, General Banking, Commercial Litigation and Fintech. Some students have raised concerns that the practice of maritime law is too specialised and therefore limiting their future opportunities and options. If I recall correctly, these are the same concerns many of my peers had when we were in law school.

However, the establishment of the Centre for Maritime Law (CML) by the Maritime and Port Authority of Singapore (MPA) and the National University of Singapore (NUS) Faculty of Law should increase the visibility of maritime law amongst law students, and I believe that the CML has organised events aimed to provide law students greater exposure and understanding of the practice of maritime law. For example, the CML organises annual student engagements where maritime law practitioners would be invited to NUS Faculty of Law to share their experience with the law students. Such engagements should provide the law students better insights as to the practice of maritime law and hopefully interest law students in considering practising maritime law.

Could you elaborate on your role as the Vice Chairman and Treasurer of the SSA YEG Committee?

The Singapore Shipping Association (SSA) represents a diverse membership of maritime stakeholders, consisting of ship owners, financial institutions, maritime service providers and professionals. The Young Executives Group (YEG) is a platform for young executives of the SSA members who are below the age of 45 to network and share maritime insights. The YEG Committee is tasked with the responsibility of organising educational, community and networking events for and on behalf of the YEG and as the Treasurer and Vice Chairman of the YEG Committee, my role would be to ensure the proper budgeting of each event organised by the YEG Committee as well as assist with the planning and execution of the various YEG initiatives and events.

Having the opportunity to serve as a member of the YEG Committee has afforded me deeper insights to the maritime sector beyond maritime law and more importantly a chance to work with various YEG Committee members from diverse maritime backgrounds, many of whom have since become my close friends in the industry and whom I am proud to have the privilege to work alongside.

Congratulations on your appointment as an IMO Goodwill Maritime Ambassador for Singapore. Could you share what is the role of an IMO Goodwill Maritime Ambassador?

First, I would like to express my gratitude to the SSA for their support and their strong recommendation to the Singapore Government for my appointment as an IMO Goodwill Maritime Ambassador for Singapore.

The role as an IMO Goodwill Maritime Ambassador requires me to act as an advocate for maritime and seafaring professions by championing the maritime sector and promoting its opportunities. This would include reaching out to young professionals and students. To do so, we would need to work closely with the MPA, the Singapore Maritime Foundation as well as the SSA.

What do you think the future of maritime law looks like and what would you say to young lawyers that are uncertain about pursuing a career in maritime law?

The practice of maritime law in Singapore would need to adapt in tandem with the development of the maritime sector in Singapore. Singapore has consistently been ranked as the world’s top maritime centre and there are many exciting developments in the maritime sector in Singapore, such as, to name a few, the push for digitalisation, the rolling out of green initiatives and regulations to regulate the emission of greenhouse gases and in response thereto the increase in green and sustainable financings, and advancing of Singapore’s standing as an Asian insurance hub.

These developments present opportunities for maritime law practitioners to explore new areas of practice. Law students should therefore keep an open mind towards the practice of maritime law and not have fixed misconceptions that the practice of maritime law is too specialised and will limit their future options or that the maritime industry in general is a sunset industry. I would encourage them to take up maritime law internships and experience first-hand the practice of maritime law. This may change any preconceived opinions they may have.

On a personal note, the maritime industry, its opportunities and most importantly, its people have been instrumental in my personal and career development the past 14 years. The international nature of shipping has expanded my worldview and provided me greater insights and appreciation towards other nationalities and cultures; the constant developments and regulatory changes provide me with the opportunity to improve, expand and hone my legal knowledge and skillset; and the opportunity to serve the industry as the Vice-Chairman and Treasurer of the SSA YEG as well as the IMO Goodwill Maritime Ambassador exposes me to issues and thought processes beyond legal issues as well as the chance to develop my leadership skills. I am therefore fortunate and grateful to have embarked on this journey as a ship finance lawyer.

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Sea Asia 2021: Fireside Chat with Minister Iswaran

The biennial Sea Asia event is back for its 8th edition, virtually this time from 21 to 23 September 2021. As Asia’s leading maritime marketplace, Sea Asia 2021 serves as the prime platform for discussion on key issues at the intersection of decarbonisation, technology, innovation, and talent. 

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In Conversation with Maritime Lawyers: Charlene Sim

Maritime is home to a diverse group of sectors—maritime law being a key pillar in this ecosystem. Commonly perceived as a “dull” industry, the Singapore Maritime Foundation (SMF) seeks to address these misconceptions. Continuing our conversation with Maritime Lawyers, we speak with Charlene Sim, a Senior Legal Associate in the Marine Team at Kennedys. In…

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In Conversation with Maritime Lawyers: Jade Chia

Maritime is home to a diverse group of sectors—maritime law being a key pillar in this ecosystem. Commonly perceived as a “dull” industry, the Singapore Maritime Foundation (SMF) seeks to address these misconceptions. In the Maritime Lawyers series, SMF will tackle commonly asked questions and obtain our answers straight from the horse’s mouth, from maritime…

The biennial Sea Asia event is back for its 8th edition, virtually this time from 21 to 23 September 2021. As Asia’s leading maritime marketplace, Sea Asia 2021 serves as the prime platform for discussion on key issues at the intersection of decarbonisation, technology, innovation, and talent. 

Kicking off the three-day event, Singapore Maritime Foundation’s Chairman, Mr Andreas Sohmen-Pao, conducted a fireside chat with Singapore’s Minister for Transport & Minister-in-charge of Trade Relations, Mr S Iswaran. They spoke on how the Covid-19 pandemic has had a wide-ranging impact on global trade and economic sectors such as maritime, as well as and the vital role that talent plays as the bedrock of the industry’s growth.

Digitalisation

“When you think about the longer term, one major issue is also how technology is going to change the way businesses are conducted.” – Mr Iswaran on how COVID-19 has driven industry transformation. 

Broadly, Singapore’s annual economic growth for 2021 is forecasted at 6% by the International Monetary Fund. Yet, Covid-19 has introduced a mixed bag of transitory and lasting effects, triggering systemic change—the expedition of industry digitalisation being one of them, as observed by Minister Iswaran. 

With maritime embracing digitalisation, physical capabilities must also be strengthened alongside technological infrastructure to ensure the smooth and efficient passage of physical goods. digitalOCEANS (Open/Common Exchange And Network Standardisation), an informational platform that facilitates cross-border data exchange created by the Maritime and Port Authority of Singapore (MPA), is one such example. 

Apart from improving system efficiency, digitalisation has a spillover effect on achieving Maritime Singapore’s decarbonisation goals.

Sustainability

“Sustainability is already an important consideration, and it is only going to be more so in the future. Whether you are in the shipping line or port operator, we need to consider the issue of sustainability. It is not just about cost but also about compatibility.” – Mr Iswaran on sustainability being a shared responsibility.

Taking a leaf out of aviation’s book, Minister Iswaran cites how shortening aircraft dwelling and navigation time drastically reduces fuel usage. Similarly, digitalPORT by MPA addresses the issue of the idle ship waiting time by providing timely information. As the industry moves towards sustainable fuel alternatives, systemic efforts and industry support are required to drive the fulfilment of long-term sustainability goals, especially for what he identifies as an “urgent task.”

Considering its global impact, sustainability requires the concerted efforts of regulatory bodies, businesses, and individuals.  

Public-Private Cooperation

“It [Sustainability] is a global common challenge and we require a global common solution that can be applied across the board.”- Mr Iswaran on harmonising global standards to reduce carbon footprint. 

While maritime organisations navigate the relatively uncharted waters of decarbonisation, both domestic and global regulatory bodies need to implement clear standards on issues such as carbon pricing. The maritime ecosystem comprises businesses, unions, regulatory bodies, and individual stakeholders, experiencing diverse perspectives.  

He stressed the importance of governmental bodies engaging in conversation with industries to obtain a wider operational perspective and bring forth creative solutions—an area that the Global Centre for Maritime Decarbonisation, which was set up in response to the International Advisory Panel on Maritime Decarbonisation (IAP) Report, addresses. 

Developing and Retaining Talent

“It is important that businessmen and business leaders understand that this is also a shared responsibility. When businesses embrace technology, we want employees to know that they will also be looked after.”- Mr Iswaran on why public-private cooperation is required for skills upgrading. 

As Maritime evolves digitally, building a future-ready workforce has never been more pertinent. To complement governmental skills upgrading efforts such as SkillsFuture, organisations are encouraged continue building the capabilities of existing talent while attracting new members into the pool. 

Besides retention, grooming new talent was another key focus of this conversation. Harkening back to Singapore history as a trading port, he affirmed the nation’s commitment to developing both software and hardware to retain its position as a leading International Maritime Centre. This presents countless opportunities, especially with digitalisation and sustainability, and the Minister beckoned youths to explore maritime as a career. 

After all, “this is an industry with a very compelling value proposition”, says Minister Iswaran, where one can forge a lasting career. 

Inspired to make Maritime your port of call? Visit the MSC Career Portal.

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In Conversation with Maritime Lawyers: Charlene Sim

Maritime is home to a diverse group of sectors—maritime law being a key pillar in this ecosystem. Commonly perceived as a “dull” industry, the Singapore Maritime Foundation (SMF) seeks to address these misconceptions. Continuing our conversation with Maritime Lawyers, we speak with Charlene Sim, a Senior Legal Associate in the Marine Team at Kennedys. In…

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In Conversation with Maritime Lawyers: Jade Chia

Maritime is home to a diverse group of sectors—maritime law being a key pillar in this ecosystem. Commonly perceived as a “dull” industry, the Singapore Maritime Foundation (SMF) seeks to address these misconceptions. In the Maritime Lawyers series, SMF will tackle commonly asked questions and obtain our answers straight from the horse’s mouth, from maritime…

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Decarbonisation Pathways for the Global Maritime Industry

The International Advisory Panel on Maritime Decarbonisation (IAP) was formed in July 2020 by the Singapore Maritime Foundation (SMF), with the support of the Maritime and Port Authority of Singapore (MPA). The IAP’s vision is for Maritime Singapore to support decarbonisation of the industry to meet or exceed the International Maritime Organization’s (IMO) goals for…

Maritime is home to a diverse group of sectors—maritime law being a key pillar in this ecosystem. Commonly perceived as a “dull” industry, the Singapore Maritime Foundation (SMF) seeks to address these misconceptions.

Continuing our conversation with Maritime Lawyers, we speak with Charlene Sim, a Senior Legal Associate in the Marine Team at Kennedys. In this feature, we dig into Charlene’s motivations behind specialising in maritime law, the challenges accompanying this role and what being a female practitioner in a male-dominated field looks like.

How did you first encounter maritime law?

My journey began with an internship at Ang and Partners, a local shipping law firm. Then, I was in my third year of education at the Singapore Management University’s Yong Pung How School of Law (SMU).
At SMU, we were actively encouraged to take up internships and I had done a few in general litigation and corporate law. However, maritime law stood out as an exciting career path, and I decided to further my knowledge through shipping law modules before pursuing it.
Upon graduation, I completed my trainee contract with Ang & Partners and am now with Kennedys’ Marine Team.

What aspect of maritime law draws you in?

Maritime law is challenging yet at the same time exciting. It is extremely diverse and has similarities with other areas of law such as contract and tort law. The essence of the law does not differ much, apart from industry specific terms such as “charterparty” and “bill of lading”. In fact, most of the leading contract law cases are shipping and maritime cases. There is never a dull moment – you will be exposed to the many facets of law as well as the various shipping-related industries, such as commodities, oil & gas and subsea cables. I thoroughly enjoy tackling the multi-faceted case scenarios brought to me by my clients and coming up with creative solutions for them.

Young law students often shy away from maritime law for fear of being too “specialised”. However, I believe that transitioning into general areas such as contract and tort from maritime is not a concern because practicing maritime law equips you with a broad range of transferrable skills.
For example, maritime lawyers can readily handle general commercial cases since maritime contractual concepts apply to them too. On the contrary, generally trained lawyers will find it significantly more challenging to effectively tackle a maritime law case.

On the topic of maritime law being “niche”, is it essential to formally study maritime law modules? Can lawyers without this background pivot into maritime law later in their careers?

Taking the modules and interning at a shipping law firm will provide you with the fundamentals and ease you into the industry. Nevertheless, you can still transition into shipping without doing so. Majority of the concepts can be learnt on the job and coupled with sufficient self-studying; you will be able to pivot into maritime law with ease. One such example is an ex-colleague of mine, with a commodities trading background. He forayed into maritime law after taking up law as his second degree and is presently a maritime lawyer.
While maritime law modules provide you with the fundamentals of maritime law, in the long run, missing out on the modules will not significantly handicap you as the bulk of my knowledge was, and is still being attained, through practice. Should you wish to pivot into maritime law, I always believe that what is most important, is having a positive learning attitude and keen aptitude for the subject matter.

What are the differences between what you learnt in school and practice?

As with all industries, not just shipping, what you learn in school covers the main principles which you then apply to specific case scenarios during exams. Recommending solutions that are solely grounded in legal theory will satisfy the requirements. However, this does not suffice in practice where there are significantly more variables at play. Often when providing legal advice, maritime lawyers must anticipate the various possible outcomes as well as give due consideration to commercial realities such as the client’s commercial relationship with the opposing party.
Another branch of maritime law that was not formally taught in school is sanctions. Sanctions issues may arise in shipping cases for instance where the cargo being transported is Iranian oil and subject to US sanctions. These nuggets of industry and technical knowledge are most often acquired through practice.

Could you provide a rundown of your job scope?

Broadly, my work covers commercial litigation and arbitration with a focus on shipping, logistics and international trade matters. The claims that we handle include charterparty claims, cargo claims, ship arrest and marine insurance claims to name a few. Most of the arbitration work is seated in Singapore or London and typically concern charterparty claims.
Maritime law extends beyond Singapore’s shores and its international nature requires the involvement of multiple jurisdictions. Having to work around the different laws across jurisdictions, handle conflict of laws issues, and interact with lawyers hailing from other countries makes this job highly interesting.
My daily tasks involve providing client advice, case discussions and drafting submissions. Often, clients in the shipping industry have some knowledge of shipping law and would generally approach me for legal confirmation on whether an action they intend to take is legally viable or feasible. As for client advice it must be prompt given the fast-moving nature of shipping.

What are some challenges of practicing maritime law?

Singapore is a leading International Maritime Centre and legal services are an important pillar of support in this ecosystem.
The challenge remains to attract young maritime lawyers as many law trainees and interns prefer the generalist route. They have concerns about getting pigeonholed but as mentioned earlier, I do not think it is difficult to pivot into other areas.

What do you think can be done to attract young lawyers into maritime?

During my university days, there were internship fairs organised by the school which provided us the opportunity to interact with partners and practitioners. It was also through one of these fairs that I landed an internship at Ang & Partners. As a young law student, I did not have any industry knowledge and these sharing sessions provided me a glimpse into the maritime industry and working world.
Universities could cultivate interest in the maritime industry through site visits. At my previous firm, we visited Singapore Polytechnic’s ship control room which was fascinating for me as a layperson and provided me with a holistic view of maritime.
I understand that SMF also connects young law students seeking maritime trainee contracts and internships with law firms. Recently, an intern was referred to Kennedys’ Marine Team by SMF and he said that the internship provided him with a deeper understanding of the industry. Perhaps SMF could tie up with law firms to hold seminars which would allow practising maritime lawyers to interact and engage with law students.

Maritime is perceived to be a male-dominated industry. Do you think that there is a glass ceiling for female practitioners?

Maritime is dominated by males. However, it is a misconception and stereotype that females are in a disadvantageous position.
There are no hindrances to career progression if you are a technically sound lawyer and confident in your work. The high number of female partners present in the industry is a good proof point. As long as you have the aptitude and right attitude, it will propel you in your career and in the industry.

What would you say to young law students exploring a career in maritime?

Maritime law may not be glamorous but is the bread and butter of society – pandemic or not, it is an essential area of law and is here to stay. Interning at shipping law firms will broaden your perspective on this field. My internship experience made me realise that maritime law is intriguing, interesting, and not all that intimidating. There are many maritime lawyers who are willing to mentor the younger generation of lawyers, so just give it a shot!

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In Conversation with Maritime Lawyers: Jade Chia

Maritime is home to a diverse group of sectors—maritime law being a key pillar in this ecosystem. Commonly perceived as a “dull” industry, the Singapore Maritime Foundation (SMF) seeks to address these misconceptions. In the Maritime Lawyers series, SMF will tackle commonly asked questions and obtain our answers straight from the horse’s mouth, from maritime…

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Decarbonisation Pathways for the Global Maritime Industry

The International Advisory Panel on Maritime Decarbonisation (IAP) was formed in July 2020 by the Singapore Maritime Foundation (SMF), with the support of the Maritime and Port Authority of Singapore (MPA). The IAP’s vision is for Maritime Singapore to support decarbonisation of the industry to meet or exceed the International Maritime Organization’s (IMO) goals for…

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Start-Ups and the Maritime Industry’s Digital Revolution

3 March 2021 The advent of digitalisation in the maritime industry has not only spurred organisations to digitise their processes but have also attracted start-ups that offer innovative solutions to help the industry address inefficiencies. In this article, we hear from Mr Stephen Ho, Group COO of Skylab and Mr David Yeo, founder and Group…

Maritime is home to a diverse group of sectors—maritime law being a key pillar in this ecosystem. Commonly perceived as a “dull” industry, the Singapore Maritime Foundation (SMF) seeks to address these misconceptions.

In the Maritime Lawyers series, SMF will tackle commonly asked questions and obtain our answers straight from the horse’s mouth, from maritime law practitioners. For the first feature, we sat down with Jade Chia, an associate with the Marine, Trade and Energy team at Hill Dickinson. Having a background in litigation, we spoke on her motivations behind specializing in maritime law early into her career, what excites her about the industry and the misconceptions that accompany it.

1. How were you first introduced to the maritime industry and what made you specialize in maritime law at the early stages of your career?

How I got into shipping was rather fortuitous.

In year 3 of law school, we had the flexibility of choosing law electives. There was a maritime law module that I took out of curiosity, and which I really enjoyed. I later secured my training contract with Oon and Bazul LLP, a firm which was very much shipping-focused at that time. While I received some advice cautioning against starting out in such a niche legal practice, there were also advantages in specializing in a specific area of law from the outset which resonated with me.

As such, I wanted to equip myself as best as I could with the relevant legal knowledge of the shipping industry while I was still in school. Fortunately, the National University of Singapore’s School of Law (NUS) offered a few other shipping modules which I spent the remainder of years 3 and 4 completing.

2. On the topic of maritime law being a niche field, do you think that this discourages young lawyers from entering the field? It does seem rather daunting especially for students that are unsure about their career path.

Yes, I think it is undeniable that this area of law, being niche, will lead to concerns about being pigeon-holed in a particular field or industry. As I mentioned earlier, the general advice that undergraduates tend to receive is to start their careers in a more general area of practice to provide optionality before diving into a specific area of law if they wish to do so. To compound the issue, most students do not know much about shipping or maritime law and may be afraid to take up such electives because these modules seem extremely foreign.

However, I have seen newly qualified lawyers start out their careers in shipping and trade teams without having done any shipping or maritime law courses in school, and who are doing a fantastic job. It is therefore not a complete barrier to joining a shipping team or firm if you have not done any shipping law modules in school. Nonetheless, the learning curve may be slightly steeper for a new lawyer who does not have the same level of background knowledge of shipping law or the industry as someone who has taken some of these shipping modules in school.

3. Was there any specific event which solidified your belief that maritime was the path for you?

Once I started working, my interest in this area of law grew and I started enjoying my work more. Also, personally, I think that there is great value in providing a niche legal service, so I have no regrets pursuing a specialist route as compared to a generalist route. This is therefore something that I can envision myself doing in the long run.

4. Could you give me a rundown of your general job scope and what it is like on the daily?

As an associate in the shipping and trade disputes / arbitration team, I have a mix of contentious and non-contentious work on my plate. Contentious work includes general advisory work for clients regarding disputes which they are facing from their counterparties and handling arbitrations / court proceedings for clients. Non-contentious work involves reviewing and advising on contracts. Majority of my cases are dry shipping disputes, such as those involving charter parties and sale contracts.

A typical day for me would be managing and preparing for the next steps in the arbitration proceedings which are active and handling any queries from or advice requested by the clients as and when they surface.

5. What was the most memorable case out of all the years that you have been in practice?

It was a case which I was working on when I was a second-year associate if I recall correctly. I had to argue several applications in court against a senior and experienced partner. It was nerve-wrecking and intimidating, but nevertheless an extremely eye-opening experience for me and I learnt a lot.

6. Do you feel that having a good mentor, especially in such situations is important?

Definitely. I cannot stress the importance of having a good mentor. Having helpful bosses, seniors and team members is key to one’s transition from school into the working world, as well as one’s growth as a lawyer.

I have personally benefitted greatly from bosses and senior colleagues who have always been ready to teach, help and share their experience with me when I needed it most.

7. There is a general perception that maritime law can be rather dry. What are your thoughts on this?

I do not see maritime law as boring. The shipping and maritime field of work is vast and spills over into so many other industries. There are so many types of disputes or issues which can arise and there is always an interesting element in each case such that it would be difficult to be bored. Get into it to find out for yourself!

8. What do you think schools, or the maritime industry can do to tackle these misconceptions?

For schools, I do think that they have already given students the platform to explore by offering various maritime courses. Students will have to put themselves out there and be willing to try new or different things. However, if I were to go back in time as a student, what would entice me to explore maritime law would be for practitioners to come and share their experiences. For example, they can share on the types of disputes and work that they do so that students can get a better idea of the industry.

9. What is a piece of advice you would give to young lawyers that are exploring a career in maritime?

I would strongly recommend doing internships in teams or firms specializing in shipping and trade to get a glimpse of the industry. You will get the opportunity to find out more about the work, do interesting things such as ship arrests and to discover whether you are a right fit for the team. These will all help a young lawyer to decide where to apply for their training contracts as well.

It would also be very helpful to equip yourself with the relevant knowledge (however general and basic) by taking the shipping and maritime law modules offered by your school. A little help goes a long way.

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Decarbonisation Pathways for the Global Maritime Industry

The International Advisory Panel on Maritime Decarbonisation (IAP) was formed in July 2020 by the Singapore Maritime Foundation (SMF), with the support of the Maritime and Port Authority of Singapore (MPA). The IAP’s vision is for Maritime Singapore to support decarbonisation of the industry to meet or exceed the International Maritime Organization’s (IMO) goals for…

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Start-Ups and the Maritime Industry’s Digital Revolution

3 March 2021 The advent of digitalisation in the maritime industry has not only spurred organisations to digitise their processes but have also attracted start-ups that offer innovative solutions to help the industry address inefficiencies. In this article, we hear from Mr Stephen Ho, Group COO of Skylab and Mr David Yeo, founder and Group…

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Big Data in Shipping

9 February 2021 In an industry that transports more than 80% of globally traded goods, data-driven processes and insights can help enhance efficiency and overall productivity. In this article, Dr Shahrin Osman, Regional Head of Maritime Advisory, SEA, Pacific & India at DNV GL, discusses the importance of leveraging big data in the maritime industry…

The International Advisory Panel on Maritime Decarbonisation (IAP) was formed in July 2020 by the Singapore Maritime Foundation (SMF), with the support of the Maritime and Port Authority of Singapore (MPA).

The IAP’s vision is for Maritime Singapore to support decarbonisation of the industry to meet or exceed the International Maritime Organization’s (IMO) goals for 2030 and 2050. To achieve this, the IAP has recommended focusing on four strategic objectives: (1) harmonise standards; (2) implement new solutions; (3) finance projects; and (4) collaborate with partners. Supporting these objectives are nine pathways to decarbonisation, as shown in Table 1.

Table 1: The IAP recommends four strategic objectives and nine pathways to decarbonisation

HARMONISE Standards IMPLEMENT New Solutions FINANCE Projects
1. Shape common metrics for carbon accounting
2. Set standards for new technologies and solutions
3. Pilot trials and deploy solutions
4. Build flexible ship capabilities and relevant infrastructure
5. Develop green financing mechanisms
6. Develop mechanisms that could support carbon pricing Act as custodian for and deploy R&D funds and grants
COLLABORATE with Partners
8. Multiply local, regional and global collaboration across stakeholders
9. Set up a decarbonisation centre

The panel is co-chaired by Mr Andreas Sohmen-Pao, Chairman of the Singapore Maritime Foundation, together with Mr Wong Weng Sun, Chairman of the Board and Governing Council of the Singapore Maritime Institute. It comprises 28 other leaders from maritime and related organisations, including shipping associations, shipping companies, port operators, energy companies, engine makers, shipyards, insurance and finance players, as well as academia.

The IAP has consolidated their recommendations and identified joint projects to embark on in a report, which you may access here

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Start-Ups and the Maritime Industry’s Digital Revolution

3 March 2021 The advent of digitalisation in the maritime industry has not only spurred organisations to digitise their processes but have also attracted start-ups that offer innovative solutions to help the industry address inefficiencies. In this article, we hear from Mr Stephen Ho, Group COO of Skylab and Mr David Yeo, founder and Group…

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Big Data in Shipping

9 February 2021 In an industry that transports more than 80% of globally traded goods, data-driven processes and insights can help enhance efficiency and overall productivity. In this article, Dr Shahrin Osman, Regional Head of Maritime Advisory, SEA, Pacific & India at DNV GL, discusses the importance of leveraging big data in the maritime industry…

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Singapore: From Port City to Global Hub Port and International Maritime Centre

2 December 2020 Singapore’s journey from a port city to a Global Hub Port and leading International Maritime Centre (IMC) has not been an easy one. In this article, we hear from Mr. Chua Chye Poh, Founder and Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of ShipsFocus Group, and Prof. Lee Loo Hay, Director of the Centre for…

3 March 2021

The advent of digitalisation in the maritime industry has not only spurred organisations to digitise their processes but have also attracted start-ups that offer innovative solutions to help the industry address inefficiencies. In this article, we hear from Mr Stephen Ho, Group COO of Skylab and Mr David Yeo, founder and Group CEO of Innovez One as they share about the role start-ups play in the industry’s digitalisation journey and how maritime organisations should respond to achieve maximum benefits.

With its largely manual processes and preference for paper-based operations, the maritime industry is often regarded as a conservative one. However, industry players have come to a common consensus in recent years, that organisations must adapt in order to survive in an increasingly volatile business environment. With each step of the supply chain, there is much potential for innovation. Maritime organisations are incorporating new technologies to optimise processes and investing in research and development to find new ways to remain competitive. As such, we are witnessing a digital revolution in one of the oldest industries in the world. This has also attracted a group, eager to tap on this vast potential and make their mark in this important industry – technology start-ups.

Resolving Shipping’s Challenges with Technology

“Start-ups are able to bring fresh perspectives to the pain points faced by the industry and can adapt their products and solutions that have worked in other industries to address maritime related challenges,” shared Mr Stephen Ho, Group COO of Singapore-based deep technology company, SkyLab.

Together with his team, Mr Ho recognised that the maritime industry faced a challenging communications environment due to its reliance on satellite links. With the industry’s complex operations and processes, a seamless flow and exchange of data are crucial in ensuring that the supply chain moves smoothly.

“Constantly changing bandwidths, packet losses and latency, network congestion and retransmission are likely to hamper the smooth flow of internet traffic through wireless networks. This poses a tremendous challenge in the large-scale adoption of IoT, and its corresponding benefits and values, in the maritime industry,” Mr Ho shared.

Having already deployed their robust enterprise grade Industrial IoT (IIoT) and edge cloud solutions to other sectors like telecommunications and green energy, the team saw an opportunity in shipping. SkyLab’s data transport accelerator engine (STA™), which is developed in-house, thus aims to overcome current limitations of satellite communications.

Although the industry is well into its digital transformation journey, Mr David Yeo, founder and Group CEO of Innovez One, a tech company focused on delivering smart-tech and Artificial Intelligence (A.I.) solutions, realised that digitalisation seemed to only be reserved for larger, top-tier ports and established operators. This results in an imbalance where smaller ports are left to digitise with limited resources, where they are unable to fully reap the benefits of new technology. Innovez One was thus founded to democratise digitalisation by automating complex maritime operations, empowering interoperability between players in the maritime supply chain and enabling port call optimisation for all – regardless of size or stature.

“There is no reason why every port cannot be a smart port; digitalisation should be for the masses, not the few, and we have the technology to help ports increase the efficiency, sustainability and profitability of their operations,” Mr Yeo explained.

Their marineM platform, powered by A.I., helps users optimise critical resource allocation for their operations, such as in planning and dispatching of pilots and tugboats, which can be monitored in real-time.

A Two-Way Partnership

Despite the myriad of innovative solutions that start-ups can offer, maritime companies need to move away from conservative mindsets, be willing to adopt these changes and open to collaboration. Conversely, technology companies entering the industry without receiving insights from established maritime firms will miss crucial information that can help guide the team to engineer the right solutions.

“Maritime is a uniquely complex sector. There is so much potential for digital solutions, but it also means it’s uniquely difficult to solve them,” Mr Yeo pointed out.

Both Mr Yeo and Mr Ho agree that maritime companies have been generally receptive to new solutions.

“For instance, we worked with Bernhard Schulte, DM Sea Logistics, GAC Group, Kian Lian Ferry and HHH Marine Launch to automate and digitise Singapore’s last-mile delivery of launch operations at Marina South Pier and West Coast Pier. Everyone appreciated our in-depth sector knowledge and our ability to use digital solutions to unlock short and long-term efficiencies,” Mr Yeo shared.

Similarly, during SkyLab’s journey through the Maritime and Port Authority of Singapore’s (MPA) Smart Port Challenge, their 8-week ‘incubation’ period saw many industry veterans sharing the challenges they faced with the team while offering suggestions on how SkyLab could refine their products that better suited maritime.

With an increasing number of start-ups entering the industry offering a myriad of ideas to plug the gaps in shipping’s drive for digitalisation, how can we prevent these offerings from becoming merely patchwork solutions?

“I believe the adoption of innovative solutions is driven by three key factors: frequent exchanges between start-ups and the industry, cross – fertilisation of ideas and the need to address real business needs,” Mr Ho highlighted. “The key takeaway for us was that an innovative solution should not be an end unto itself and must address a real business or operational need.”

Mr Ho recognised that they had to look at how their solution could address a maritime-specific challenge, and how this would play out in the larger supply chain. Originally developed for the solar sector, SkyLab’s data logistics products had to undergo rounds of refinement to ensure their solutions could address maritime specific challenges, despite the similarities of needs across industries.

The proliferation of start-ups can also lead to a proliferation of standards or ideas that do not necessarily work well together. Mr Yeo pointed out that in the port sector, interoperability and compatibility are important in ensuring that ports can communicate with one another and with other service providers to operate without interruption every day of the year.

“As ports digitise, the solutions that they develop must be based on a strategic port management framework with a common set of criteria – one of which would be to ensure that management systems support an open architecture to enable different players to co-exist and be interoperable with each other, in real time,” he elaborated.

Fostering a Culture of Innovation

As summarised by many – the maritime industry is ripe for disruption. Fostering a culture of innovation is crucial in ensuring that the industry remains open to transformation both from within, through digitising current practices, and without, through drawing inspiration and ideas from those outside the industry.

“When start-ups see that their efforts have the possibility of bearing fruit and industry players recognise that they can enhance their business operations by adopting a start-up’s product that they might not otherwise have been able to obtain from the market, both parties stand to benefit. This goes a long way in creating a culture of sustained innovation,” Mr Ho shared.

Additionally, Mr Yeo highlighted that both public and private groups have a role to play in this.

“By bringing key players together, all parties can contribute to shipping’s digital revolution. This includes mentoring and funding through programmes such as MPA’s MINT fund and initiatives such as PORT XL, which offer valuable support to empower start-ups to make a difference,” he added.

With the numerous developments of technology and endless possibilities that this could unlock for the industry, what does a fully digitalised industry look like and how far along are we in achieving this vision?

Mr Ho believes that this would entail robust and expeditious data exchange between vessel to shore, allowing fleet owners to receive updates on potential issues pertaining to the fleet and crew in real time. For Mr Yeo, an entirely digitalised sector would be one that has replaced manual systems with digital solutions that can reduce costs and boost overall productivity. It would also result in every port becoming smart ports.

“However, we still have a lot of progress to make,” Mr Yeo shared. “Information needs to come off whiteboards and excel sheets and into databases – a basic and not a necessarily hard step for the industry to take, which can lead to much bigger things. Digitalisation does not mean that everything is automated. What it does mean is that all the data about where things are, and where things need to be, is captured in a way that makes the industry as efficient as possible.”

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Big Data in Shipping

9 February 2021 In an industry that transports more than 80% of globally traded goods, data-driven processes and insights can help enhance efficiency and overall productivity. In this article, Dr Shahrin Osman, Regional Head of Maritime Advisory, SEA, Pacific & India at DNV GL, discusses the importance of leveraging big data in the maritime industry…

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Singapore: From Port City to Global Hub Port and International Maritime Centre

2 December 2020 Singapore’s journey from a port city to a Global Hub Port and leading International Maritime Centre (IMC) has not been an easy one. In this article, we hear from Mr. Chua Chye Poh, Founder and Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of ShipsFocus Group, and Prof. Lee Loo Hay, Director of the Centre for…

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Resolving Maritime Disputes Smartly & Effectively

6 October 2020 Mr Punit Oza, Executive Director and Registrar of Singapore Chamber of Maritime Arbitration (SCMA), shares with SMF six ways to resolve maritime disputes smartly and effectively, from paying attention to the dispute resolution clause in the contract, even before there is a dispute, to using SCMA to resolve those disputes. Let me…

9 February 2021

In an industry that transports more than 80% of globally traded goods, data-driven processes and insights can help enhance efficiency and overall productivity. In this article, Dr Shahrin Osman, Regional Head of Maritime Advisory, SEA, Pacific & India at DNV GL, discusses the importance of leveraging big data in the maritime industry and actions to take moving forward.

‘Big data’ has become a buzzword in recent years, as the maritime industry sails towards an increasingly digitalised future. So, what is it? Big data refers to a large amount of data that requires advanced tools to analyse, store and process. Sectors such as finance, healthcare and banking have benefitted greatly from the utilisation of big data. In recent years, the maritime industry has started to leverage this, creating new opportunities for many players in the industry, such as ship owners, charterers and operators.

In a report commissioned by Trelleborg Marine Systems, the maritime industry generates 100 to 120 million data points daily from various sources such as ports and vessel movements. By leveraging insights generated from big data, organisations can increase overall operational efficiencies and create opportunities for growth.

For example, big data enhances efficiency as it enables the integration of operations across systems and assets. Some activities that were previously being performed onboard vessels can be done on shore now

Dr. Shahrin Osman, Regional Head of Maritime Advisory, SEA, Pacific & India at DNV GL.

Dr. Shahrin continued by sharing some services in which DNV GL has employed big data, which has received positive feedback.
“Our Port State Control (PSC) Planner helps ship owners understand and anticipate vessel inspection criteria, allowing them to take the necessary actions when their vessels are in danger of failing to meet these criteria,” he explained. Based on actual Automatic Identification System (AIS) data, the ship’s risk factor and the PSC inspection window of the corresponding Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) will be shown at a single glance on DNV GL’s platform.

“To help customers manage their survey requirements more efficiently, with respect to time, scope and cost, we have introduced Smart Survey Booking, providing notifications of upcoming, cost-effective combinations of surveys as well as transparency on estimated travel and overtime cost in advance,” added Dr Shahrin. “Big data is also used in DNV GL’s Direct Access to Technical Experts (DATE), a 24/7 technical helpdesk, to support our customers in a faster and more efficient manner.”

Investing in technology, people and processes

The first step to leveraging big data is having sufficiently advanced technological infrastructure. Presently, many maritime companies have already embarked on the digital shift, focusing on technological solutions to improve and optimise work processes. On top of having the right infrastructure, companies should ensure that their cybersecurity efforts are sufficient in safeguarding sensitive data. Despite the numerous benefits that big data has to offer, some companies may be reluctant to invest in technology due to insufficient resources, or the lack of clarity and certainty of the returns.

The human element is also critical to digital transformation.
“One of the most common problems that organisations encounter in the digital transformation journey is the commitment from everyone in the leadership team to start on the journey together,” shared Dr Shahrin. “Most projects tend to get stalled or fail to achieve objectives due to poor management processes.”

However, that is not to say that it is just about the leaders or those in the Information Technology (IT) department. The entire workforce needs to have the right mindset and be well-equipped with the right skills to benefit from digitalisation and big data.

“DNV GL has established various other digital innovation programs and initiatives for employees to benefit from big data,” said Dr Shahrin. “We collaborated with INSEAD to design a ‘Leading the Digital Transformation Programme’ for our senior management, to ensure full commitment from the top. This program was further extended to heads of departments, team leaders and digitalisation champions throughout the organisation via online modules. Subsequently, in early 2019, we jointly developed a Digital Transformation Program with a leading learning partner for all employees worldwide.”

Foreseeing an increasing dependence on big data in the maritime industry in the coming years, Dr Shahrin recommends for maritime companies that are new to digitalisation to first develop a data strategy and data governance internally. In addition to gathering data, companies need to learn to analyse and create value from it. The ability to create value lies not only in the quality of the data but also in how well the data is managed within companies.

“Maritime companies can start their journey by participating in this complimentary self-assessment created by DNV GL to understand their organisations’ data management proficiency,” shared Dr Shahrin.

Plugging the gaps

To further improve performance and efficiency in the industry, data sharing and collaboration amongst maritime players throughout the supply chain should be encouraged. Yet there is still much to be done in this area.

“One of the key areas to promote data sharing is to continue focusing and investing in data standardisation. Just like how standards are used in other industries to achieve economies of scale, having these standards in the maritime industry would not only help to promote data sharing and collaboration but also facilitate integration and interoperability,” explained Dr Shahrin.

In an increasingly digitalised future, maritime companies are recognising the importance of collecting and turning data into actionable insights to optimise processes and remain competitive. Since technology and people go hand-in-hand, aside from a continuous effort in upskilling the workforce, companies should invest in attracting young talents who are well-equipped with the right skillsets to transform the industry.

As organisations become more informed and initiate actions, the maritime industry will benefit in the long run as it becomes more dynamic, adaptable and prepared to address future challenges.

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Singapore: From Port City to Global Hub Port and International Maritime Centre

2 December 2020 Singapore’s journey from a port city to a Global Hub Port and leading International Maritime Centre (IMC) has not been an easy one. In this article, we hear from Mr. Chua Chye Poh, Founder and Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of ShipsFocus Group, and Prof. Lee Loo Hay, Director of the Centre for…

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Resolving Maritime Disputes Smartly & Effectively

6 October 2020 Mr Punit Oza, Executive Director and Registrar of Singapore Chamber of Maritime Arbitration (SCMA), shares with SMF six ways to resolve maritime disputes smartly and effectively, from paying attention to the dispute resolution clause in the contract, even before there is a dispute, to using SCMA to resolve those disputes. Let me…

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MaritimeONE Scholars: Nine Years in Maritime and Counting

19 August 2020 The MaritimeONE Scholarship Programme, administered by the Singapore Maritime Foundation (SMF) since 2007, is an industry-backed initiative which aims to nurture talent for the maritime industry by empowering scholars to act on excellent opportunities for personal and professional growth. It is heartwarming to see that the collaborative efforts of the maritime community…

2 December 2020

Singapore’s journey from a port city to a Global Hub Port and leading International Maritime Centre (IMC) has not been an easy one. In this article, we hear from Mr. Chua Chye Poh, Founder and Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of ShipsFocus Group, and Prof. Lee Loo Hay, Director of the Centre for Maritime Studies (CMS) at the National University of Singapore (NUS), as they discuss our nation’s maritime history, its growth over the decades, and what lies beyond the horizon.

When Singapore gained full independence in 1965, our nation’s former leaders had much to consider in developing a young nation – from managing internal challenges to navigating competition from the region. Singapore needed to build up its economy to ensure its population had access to jobs, and that its workforce was skilled to take on roles in an evolving economic landscape.

“Bold decisions had to be made and assiduous planning undertaken, if Singapore were to survive as a separate political entity in a region that was difficult and, at times, threatening,” said Prof. Lee Loo Hay, Director of the Centre for Maritime Studies (CMS) at the National University of Singapore (NUS).

To ensure the nation’s survival in the region, the leaders focused on an ambitious industrialisation programme that was accompanied by the growth of the port. Through leveraging the nation’s competitive edge – its favourable geographical location at the crossroads of important trade lines – and adopting a pro-business, pro-foreign investment, export-oriented economy policy, Singapore gradually achieved economic prosperity.

Over the years, the little red dot expanded its maritime space through bold policies and establishing strong commercial and shipping linkages with other ports.

“Singapore’s proactive policy on port management saw the development of a container terminal at Tanjong Pagar in 1972,” said Prof. Lee. “At that time, it was a controversial but bold move as the demand for container shipping was uncertain. Eventually, we became the first port in Southeast Asia to accommodate a third-generation container vessel.”

It is widely known that the history of Singapore is synonymous with the history of its ports. The transformation of Singapore from a small regional port to one of the busiest ports in the world, that is connected to 600 ports in over 120 countries, was not only made possible by its location, but also the bold and clear vision of its leaders. As the late Mr. Lee Kuan Yew, first Prime Minister of Singapore, had once said, “Singapore’s raison d’etre was its port”.

“Historically, Singapore has served well as a port,” said Mr. Chua Chye Poh, Founder and Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of ShipsFocus Group. “What we are doing is to continuously enhance this strategic position that we are endowed with. What we need is foresight, courage and humility to build on what the previous generations have achieved.”

Beyond A Global Hub Port

Today, the maritime industry is a key driver of Singapore’s economy, contributing to about 7% of the nation’s GDP. Singapore has grown beyond just a global hub port, it is also a leading International Maritime Centre (IMC) – a tightly-integrated ecosystem with dynamic business linkages and synergies, offering a wide range of maritime services such as finance, insurance, broking and surveying. Last year, the nation was recognised as the top leading maritime capital of the world for the fourth consecutive time.

“When we were number three or number two, we had a number one to emulate. Now, at the number one position, it gets more challenging to continually stay ahead of the curve,” shared Mr. Chua. “Since we have succeeded, we must believe that others can also do so. It is important to maintain a crisis mindset as we continue to develop ourselves to be an effective hub and an efficient value-creating platform – it is a never-ending process of evolution and progress. Once we rest on our laurels, we will lose our top position, like all other top maritime centres before us.”

To ensure that Singapore is constantly ahead of its competitors, capitalising on new technologies to drive productivity and efficiency, deepening maritime Research and Development (R&D) capabilities, as well as investing in talent are some of the key strategies outlined in the Sea Transport Industry Transformation Map.

For example, the Singapore Maritime Institute (SMI), with the support of the Maritime and Port Authority of Singapore (MPA), has established four Centres Of Excellence (COEs) with the Institutes of Higher Learning (IHLs) in the Modelling and Simulation area for the Next Generation Ports, Maritime Energy and Sustainable Development, Maritime Safety and Maritime Autonomous Surface Ships (MASS).

“CMS seeks to be a leading centre for maritime research committed to adding value to the local, regional, and global maritime community,” shared Prof. Lee. “The Centre of Excellence in Modelling and Simulation for Next Generation Ports (C4NGP) was jointly established by SMI and NUS in 2018, to help the port sector develop innovative capabilities and enhance their global competitiveness.”

In addition, the maritime industry has also begun its digital shift in recent years, which is now accelerated by the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Benefits to jumping on the digitalisation bandwagon include increased efficiency, unprecedented visibility, enhanced service stickiness, attraction and retention of young talents as well as a data repository to inform future projects,” Mr. Chua said.

To support the digital shift, a future-ready talent pool is critical. The maritime industry needs to constantly attract young talent with relevant skills into the industry while retaining and upskilling or reskilling the existing workforce.

“CMS and the Department of Industrial Systems Engineering and Management (ISEM) will be launching the Masters of Science (Maritime Technology and Management) (MSc, (MTM)) next academic year,” shared Prof. Lee. “The programme seeks to train and equip graduates with skillsets to enable next-generation port capabilities. They will support Singapore’s move towards digitalisation and innovation.”

Navigating A World Of Disruption

Will the maritime industry continue to play a significant role in global trade in the future? Mr. Chua notes that this depends on how well it performs under disruption.

“Many would think that an industry that transports more than 80% of global trade would still remain relevant. In a traditional world, industries are segregated and flows are manual. Now, we are in a highly-connected digital world with automated and seamless flows. The maritime industry intersects with industries such as logistics, trade and insurance, which are undergoing their respective transformation journeys that will open opportunities to move into adjacent industries. We are seeing e-commerce platforms like Alibaba and Amazon encroaching into the freight forwarding and the container space, and Maersk’s (container) inroad into logistics with Tradelens. Coming from the maritime industry, naturally, I would want to see us win this race.”

As Singapore strives to maintain its position as a top maritime centre and remain one step ahead of others, it faces increasing competition from neighbouring ports as they expand their facilities and the threat of being bypassed due to alternative shipping routes. The recent pandemic has also brought about unforeseen global challenges that impacted economies and disrupted supply chains.

Yet amid the global pandemic, the maritime industry remained critical in transporting essential goods such as food and medical supplies to countries worldwide.

“While the pandemic has given the industry its deserving recognition for the crucial role it plays in global trade, such resultant awareness is expected to exert pressure on the industry to provide more transparency on efforts such as decarbonisation,” Mr. Chua pointed out.

“Given the growing concerns over climate change, emphasis would be placed on reducing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions,” Prof. Lee added.

While the pandemic is still running its course, the maritime industry has been working to overcome the challenges posed, and at the same time, tackle decarbonisation – an ongoing commitment that began even before COVID-19. In fact, an International Advisory Panel on Maritime Decarbonisation (IAP) has been established by the Singapore Maritime Foundation (SMF) and MPA earlier this year, to discuss pathways to maritime decarbonisation, policies that could help accelerate the transition and proposed actions to be taken by Singapore.

Steering Through Unchartered Waters

Looking ahead, it is crucial for Singapore to capitalise on opportunities such as those presented by technology and harness its benefits to prolong its success and navigate future crises.

“COVID-19 is one crisis, but it will not be the last,” Prof. Lee highlighted. “A learning point from this is for the maritime community to deploy big data analytics, AI and autonomous technology to enhance the visibility and resilience of the supply chain, especially in transporting food and medical supplies, as well as ensuring the safety of seafarers onboard.”

How Singapore got to where it is today has not been without challenges. Though the journey ahead in the new normal may have hurdles, our nation is armoured with the lessons learned from past experiences. Together with the guidance of exceptional leaders and the continued collaborative efforts amongst members of the maritime community, the industry is set to continue flourishing in the years to come.

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Resolving Maritime Disputes Smartly & Effectively

6 October 2020 Mr Punit Oza, Executive Director and Registrar of Singapore Chamber of Maritime Arbitration (SCMA), shares with SMF six ways to resolve maritime disputes smartly and effectively, from paying attention to the dispute resolution clause in the contract, even before there is a dispute, to using SCMA to resolve those disputes. Let me…

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19 August 2020 The MaritimeONE Scholarship Programme, administered by the Singapore Maritime Foundation (SMF) since 2007, is an industry-backed initiative which aims to nurture talent for the maritime industry by empowering scholars to act on excellent opportunities for personal and professional growth. It is heartwarming to see that the collaborative efforts of the maritime community…

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Navigating Through A Pandemic: A HR Perspective

22 July 2020 Is HR essential? What role do HR professionals play in times of crisis? The Circle of HR InnOvators (CHRO) network was launched by the Maritime and Port Authority of Singapore (MPA) and the Singapore Maritime Foundation (SMF), as a platform for HR professionals to share best practices and insights into how HR…

6 October 2020

Mr Punit Oza, Executive Director and Registrar of Singapore Chamber of Maritime Arbitration (SCMA), shares with SMF six ways to resolve maritime disputes smartly and effectively, from paying attention to the dispute resolution clause in the contract, even before there is a dispute, to using SCMA to resolve those disputes.

Let me start with two quotes, which should set the tone for the rest of article.

Conflict is inevitable, combat is optional.

Max Lucado, American author

“Conflict is neither good nor bad. Properly managed, it is absolutely vital.” – Kenneth Kaye, American Psychologist
Disputes are a part and parcel of any contractual dealing, including maritime contracts. The key is knowing how to resolve these disputes. Doing it smartly will save you cost, time, effort and maybe even your business relationships.

1. Paying attention to the dispute resolution clause in your contract

The first thing that you must pay attention to, is the dispute resolution clause in your contract. The very reason why we have a clear and binding clause in the contract is to be able to resolve any disputes or differences of opinion about the contract by referring to the same contract clause. This is important to note irrespective of what dispute resolution forum and method you choose.

The dispute resolution clause must clearly state the seat of the arbitration along with the chosen forum and a reference to the forum’s rules. A simple example would be “Arbitration in Singapore, SCMA Rules to apply”. Most of the arbitration forums have model clauses. For SCMA’s model clauses, including the SCMA BIMCO Law & Arbitration Clause, these can be found here.

2. Selecting the most suitable dispute resolution method to resolve your disputes

I have seen far too many clauses which are vague and ambiguous, causing parties to end up in expensive and unnecessary litigation that they never intended to have. For resolving commercial disputes, arbitration remains the top choice and I highly recommend this method.

Unlike going to the courts, arbitration is private and confidential, less formal and does not involve rigid procedures. It is also cost-effective, involves one or more arbitrators selected by the parties, who are subject matter expert(s) with a cultural and commercial understanding of the dispute. At the same time, the awards are enforceable in over 160 countries through the New York Convention.

Interestingly, arbitration or some form of dispute resolution has been prevalent in commercial disputes since Ancient Greece, while the court system was primarily developed for criminal cases and subsequently for administrative issues involving colonies.

3. Identifying the most suitable venue to arbitrate

So, you have decided to choose arbitration to resolve your disputes. The next step is to choose the most suitable venue to arbitrate. As an economy grows through trade and maritime, the dispute resolution capabilities of the centre also grow along with it. As the top maritime capital of the world, Singapore is well-positioned to provide a suitable environment for dispute resolutions. In fact, Singapore’s maritime arbitration landscape has matured over the years.

In a recent survey by Singapore International Dispute Resolution Agency (SIDRA), Singapore was ranked as the most preferred seat for International Commercial Arbitration. Adoption of the UNCITRAL Model Law, being a part of the New York Convention signatories, having a competent judiciary and access to a rich talent pool in both the legal and commercial fields are some of the reasons why Singapore is the most suitable venue to arbitrate. Additionally, you have the freedom to choose any governing law, local or foreign arbitrators, and access to best-in-class virtual hearing facilities.

Most importantly, Singapore is right at the heart of Asia and a melting pot of business, people, and cultures. This ensures proximity of the parties involved, such as lawyers, arbitrators, and expert witnesses. Resolving disputes is as much about cultural sensitivity as commercial and legal competence, especially in arbitration.

Remember – Deal Global, Dispute Local. This means that while you may have contractual relationships around the world, choose your dispute resolution venue closer to your business. For Asian companies, Singapore would thus be the most suitable choice.

4. Deciding on the right arbitration model

After selecting the most suitable venue to arbitrate, you would have to choose an arbitration model that meets your needs and preferences. Remember, it is important that this choice must be clearly reflected in the dispute resolution clause of your contract.

The choices for international arbitration in Singapore are between Singapore Chamber of Maritime Arbitration (SCMA) and Singapore International Arbitration Centre (SIAC). The SCMA model is largely an “un-administered” one, which is adopted by nearly all maritime arbitration centres including London. This model provides greater flexibility and autonomy to the parties and the arbitrator(s). SCMA does not monitor or administer the cases, only providing a framework of rules for parties to resolve their disputes. As for the arbitrators’ fees, they are directly negotiated between the parties and arbitrators.

Think of SCMA like a football stadium, which allows teams from any nationality to play a match, bring their own referees and use their own rules in the game. All SCMA does is provide the infrastructure to ensure a fair game. This ensures a lower cost for the parties involved as the model is inherently flexible, with minimum involvement. With that said, the SCMA secretariat is able to provide any assistance if required.

On the other hand, the SIAC model is an administered one. They have very specific rules and processes and the arbitrator(s) are much more involved in the case, which requires greater manpower and higher administrative costs. At the same time, under the SIAC model, the arbitrators’ fees are charged as a percentage of the amount in disputes and thus, the higher the disputed amount, the greater the fees payable.

Each model has its pros and cons, however, as mentioned, most maritime arbitration models are based on the “un-administered model”, given the global scope of operations and the need for greater flexibility and cost-effectiveness.

5. Choosing SCMA to resolve your maritime disputes

Now that you have understood the two models available, allow me to share why SCMA should be your choice for resolving maritime disputes. SCMA was set up on 22nd May 2009 as a specialist forum and framework for maritime disputes. It gives parties considerable autonomy, offering a panel of over 100 experienced arbitrators to choose from and the ability to nominate arbitrators outside the panel as well. Such diversity and choice is critical for parties.

Being a “not for profit” organisation and funded by a public-private partnership, SCMA is free from any “special interest” or “lobby” groups. It mirrors the independence, trust, and neutrality of Singapore as a venue. Essentially, the SCMA model is flexible, well-established and cost-effective.

However, this does not mean that you should choose SCMA for all your maritime disputes. So, how do you determine SCMA’s suitability for a particular contract? You can do so by confirming the presence of any one of these indicators:

  1. One or both parties are based in Asia
  2. The execution of the contract is based in Asia (thereby ensuring proximity of experts and witnesses in case of dispute).
  3. There is a clear need to use the legal & commercial eco-system of Singapore and Asia.
  4. The nature of the underlying contract is maritime, or trade-related.
  5. In case of ad-hoc cases, where there is no clear choice of SCMA or SIAC made by the parties, and the case is maritime, or trade-related.
  6. There is a clear need to understand the Asian culture of the case and the parties involved.

The presence of any of the above indicators makes SCMA the recommended choice for the parties. Remember, this choice must be specified at the time of agreeing to the contract.

6. Using SCMA strategically to resolve maritime disputes

If you choose SCMA to resolve your disputes, here are some key things to remember:

  1. Commence an SCMA arbitration to force a response from a non-responsive party. Majority of arbitrations never reach the final award stage and are settled during the arbitration itself. This is common in Asian businesses, where arbitration is another tool to push the “non-responsive” party, who has defaulted, to come to the table. SCMA has made it very easy for a party to commence arbitration by either sending a mail or filling up an easy electronic form.
  2. Use specialised SCMA procedures to resolve disputes in the most efficient manner. If your claim is below USD 150,000, you will auto-qualify for the SCMA Small Claims Procedure, which allows for a single arbitrator, efficient timelines and capped fees of the arbitrator and capped recoverable legal costs. There is a dedicated arbitration procedure for bunker-related claims, and similarly, there is an expedited procedure, SEADOCC, for determination of collision claims. Some of these procedures are unique to SCMA and must be used strategically to save costs and time and get access to experts in the subject-matter of your case.
  3. It is ok to change your mind in the middle of an arbitration and consider mediation. Mediation is another form of dispute resolution, where the parties seek a common ground and eventually settle their disputes, if they can attain such common ground. After commencing arbitration, parties may see the case in a different light and seek mediation to resolve the dispute instead of continuing with arbitration. SCMA provides for such an eventuality and has an Arbitration-Mediation-Arbitration (Arb-Med-Arb) clause. This has several benefits. Firstly, by suggesting mediation using the agreed clause, the party suggesting mediation does not appear as “weak” or “conceding any ground”. Secondly, if a settlement does take place, SCMA can enter it as an arbitration award if need be. If mediation fails, the parties can recommence arbitration. Lastly, the SCMA model, being a low-cost one, does not involve frontloading of costs and this makes the detour to mediation cost-effective and practical, where suitable. With a heavy-handed administered model, this would be more challenging.
  4. Enforce the award around the globe. Once you have received the award or settlement, enforce it using the New York Convention and against the counterparty through local courts and institutions.

Remember that the genesis of the dispute resolution clause is during the contract negotiation stage. Once you have a clear and workable dispute resolution clause, even if a dispute does arise, you will not be caught unawares. To ensure a right clause, you need to choose the right dispute resolution method and venue to arbitrate.

In Singapore, SCMA, as a specialist maritime arbitration forum, offers a good model for maritime disputes. Keep in mind the mantra – Deal Global, Dispute Local.

I leave you with a quote from Dalai Lama, “Don’t let a little dispute injure a great relationship.” Disputes are roadblocks on the great business relationship path, it is up to you to navigate them or crash into them! ​

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