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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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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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…

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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…

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Seafarers on the COVID-19 Frontline

25 June 2020 Amid the COVID-19 crisis, seafarers continue to play an important role in transporting vital goods to countries worldwide. Mr Mohamad Abu Bakar, Vice President, Singapore Organisation of Seamen (SOS), Mr Toh Soon Kok, Port Chaplain, Mission to Seafarers Singapore (MTSS), Mr Sulaiman Jamaludin, First Officer, NYK Shipmanagement, and Mr Muhamad Fareez Bin…

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 have been successful in developing the talent pipeline for the industry. Many MaritimeONE scholars have made the decision to enter, and remain in the industry, to carve out their own futures in their respective fields.

In this feature, we speak to Shahril and Raymond, previous recipients of the MaritimeONE scholarship, who both pursued a degree in Maritime Studies at the Nanyang Technological University (NTU) over nine years ago, to learn about their experiences as MaritimeONE scholars and their fruitful journeys in maritime upon graduation.

1. How long has it been since you have graduated?

Shahril: I graduated from the Nanyang Technological University (NTU) in 2011, so it has been about nine years since then.

Raymond: Likewise. I was in the same batch as Shahril.

2. Why did you decide to take up the MaritimeONE scholarship?

Raymond: I was offered the FSL Trust – MaritimeONE scholarship and decided to take it up as it would help ensure that my university tuition fees were taken care of, thus allowing me to dedicate my time to academic and extracurricular pursuits such as networking, internships, and joining the NTU tennis team.

Shahril: A senior, Koh Yongjie, a TORM – MaritimeONE scholar, had encouraged me to apply for the scholarship. He told me that grades are not the only requirement, citing his sponsor as an example, who looked beyond grades when assessing scholarship applicants. Eventually, I decided to apply for the scholarship and to my surprise, I was offered the TORM – MaritimeONE scholarship.

3. What was it like to be a MaritimeONE scholar?

Shahril: It was a very enriching experience altogether. We were given opportunities to participate in SMF’s industry profiling initiatives to share our experiences as scholars and inspire the youth to explore maritime careers. I recall being featured on radio and print newspapers like TODAY and trade magazines. I also contributed content for a maritime skit that SMF produced, to raise awareness of the industry among schools. At the same time, the MaritimeONE scholarship opened doors to the industry, allowing me to interact with industry professionals, who have helped me in my personal and professional development.

Raymond: As what Shahril said, we had the opportunity to be invited to industry networking events, where we got to rub shoulders with many industry professionals, who were more than happy to share their knowledge and insights. I gradually built a network of contacts even before I entered the industry and still keep in touch with many of them after all these years.

4. Did the MaritimeONE scholarship help in preparing you for a maritime career? Why or why not?

Raymond: Yes, there were ample opportunities for me to attend conferences, seminars and networking events, which gave me a glimpse into what the ‘real world’ was like.

Shahril: Agreed. However, while interacting with industry professionals increased my knowledge and helped to prepare me for my career, I felt that more could be done to groom talent on a deeper level. The scholarship programme has evolved over the years, with an increasing number of initiatives to support scholars, such as the new mentorship programme. With this support, I believe scholars are better equipped to embark on their careers.

(Photo: Shahril (right) at NTU BSc MS Graduates Get-Together in 2012)
5. What are your thoughts on the evolution of the MaritimeONE scholarship programme over the years?

Shahril: One of the changes include opening the scholarship programme to non-maritime students – a change that I support fully – as this results in a greater pool of talent that maritime companies can select from. This also helps the industry get the best talents.

Raymond: Having a diverse set of talents can only benefit the industry. For instance, bringing in people with backgrounds in technology can help to support the industry’s digital transformation.

6. What made you decide to start working in the maritime industry?

Raymond: I have always found the maritime industry exciting due to the international aspect of shipping.

Shahril: While my ideal career was to be a teacher, I decided to stay in the maritime industry after accepting the MaritimeONE scholarship.

7. What made you decide to stay in the company/industry?

Shahril: I started my career in Norden on August 2011, and I have worked there ever since (I left for another job in 2018 to vary my experience, but returned to Norden shortly after). I found that Norden is probably one of the best, if not the best, place to work in because they prioritised the development of their trainees. From providing their trainees mentorship to overseas work placements – this level of commitment to employee development was hard to find in other organisations. Furthermore, their flat organizational structure ensures swift decision making, which is key to succeeding in an industry as volatile as shipping.
It was also due to the industry’s vibrant and globalised nature that convinced me to stay in maritime, where one gets to meet people from all around the world. Take the process of handling a shipment of coal from Indonesia to Philippines for example. One has to charter a vessel from its owners in London, hire a crew from Eastern Europe, before liaising with agents from Indonesia and Philippines. In such an interconnected environment, adaptability is key to ensuring everything runs smoothly.

Raymond: When I was volunteering at the Mission to Seafarers Singapore, I started to appreciate the significance of the industry and how the livelihoods of millions around the world depend on it. In the course of my career, I actually left for a short stint in the technology sector, but soon realised that nothing excited me more than working in the maritime industry. However, my experience in tech inspired me to bring some ideas into shipping to improve things. Thus, I founded Constant Bearing in early 2019. With my partner, we intend to revolutionise the maritime industry by improving the way that the port ecosystem works.

8. What were your career goals? Have you achieved them?

Raymond: I wanted to gain practical hands-on experience in the maritime industry upon graduation. I was very fortunate that the Management Trainee role I took on in my first job in Swiber allowed me to do so – I got to work in shipyards and on ships. In addition, I had the opportunity to work overseas, which was a real eye opener.
Another of my career goals was to make my mark in the industry by introducing tangible changes that can take the industry further. I am currently working on a software solution for a client, which I believe, will provide greater automation to ship agencies. I have yet to achieve that goal, but I am proud to say that I am living my dream!

Shahril: I have achieved my goal of working abroad when I was posted to Copenhagen for two years. My other goal was to encourage the younger generation to consider maritime careers, and I am happy to say that I successfully convinced my younger brother to switch from a career in outdoor adventure to maritime.

9. In your maritime journey thus far, what is one achievement you are most proud of?

Shahril: I am proud to be selected as a mentor in Norden where I get to nurture our trainees and I am currently in my second year as a mentor. My most memorable experience in this journey is guiding my first trainee to becoming one of Norden’s rising stars, all within the span of one year.

Raymond: When I was working as an Owner’s Representative in a shipyard in China, I was in charge of delivering six sister Anchor Handling Tug Supply Vessels (AHTS). Completing my first delivery gave me a huge sense of fulfilment, and I signed my name on one of the AHTS’ tyre fenders. Months later, when I was in Saudi Arabia, I was really happy to find that my signature was still on it. I am also proud to have organised regular industry networking events for offshore professionals – the first of its kind back then.

(Photo: Raymond (right) at YES Club Year End Networking Event in 2010)
10. In your opinion, what more can be done to attract students to the maritime industry?

Raymond: I believe that SMF and MPA are on the right track in their efforts to raise awareness of the maritime industry and attract students to the industry. However, one suggestion is to provide and possibly fund overseas internships, to showcase the international aspect of shipping. It would also be good to show the significance of the maritime industry in the lives of people, in order to attract the sort who are looking to make a difference.

Shahril: Similarly, I think a lot has already been done in this aspect. Perhaps SMF could explore organising career talks for parents, and utilise social media even more, to target the younger generation.

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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…

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Seafarers on the COVID-19 Frontline

25 June 2020 Amid the COVID-19 crisis, seafarers continue to play an important role in transporting vital goods to countries worldwide. Mr Mohamad Abu Bakar, Vice President, Singapore Organisation of Seamen (SOS), Mr Toh Soon Kok, Port Chaplain, Mission to Seafarers Singapore (MTSS), Mr Sulaiman Jamaludin, First Officer, NYK Shipmanagement, and Mr Muhamad Fareez Bin…

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IMO 2020: The Marine Insurance Perspective

20 April​ 2020 Rama Chandran, Chairman of the Ocean Hull Committee at the International Union of Marine Insurance (IUMI) and member of the Marine Insurance Committee at the General Insurance Association of Singapore (GIA), shares with SMF the impact of IMO 2020 on shipping and marine insurance. 2020 began with one of the most significant…

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 can transform the workplace. In this article, we hear from members of the CHRO network, Mr Ng Kok Cheong, Head of Human Resource at PSA Corporation Limited, Mr Jim Basterfield, Director of Human Resources at Teekay Tankers and Ms Eleana Choy, Global Head of Human Resources at The China Navigation Company (CNCo), as they share how their organisations have supported employees through these difficult times and their expectations of the future workforce in the “new normal”.

People remain at the heart of organisations and largely underpin business success. Thus, it could be said that a company’s ability to perform is contingent on how well they manage employee satisfaction. Douglas Conant, former President and CEO of Campbell Soup Company, aptly pointed out, “To win the marketplace, you must first win the workplace”.

As workplaces evolve, so has HR, as it takes on a more strategic function rather than a predominantly administrative one. Through shaping and strengthening organisational culture, improving employee engagement and developing talent, HR plays a crucial role within companies across industries, including maritime.

“We see HR as an integral part of business. We work closely with our business leaders in adapting and creating new people capabilities as the business evolves in a dynamic and competitive environment,” said Mr Ng Kok Cheong, Head of Human Resource at PSA Corporation Limited. “In this challenging time dealing with COVID-19, our key focus is to be ‘alongside’ our employees, listen with empathy, and support them to overcome the crisis. At the same time, we aim to bring everyone along as we emerge stronger post COVID-19.”

(Photo: One of PSA’s virtual team bonding sessions)

This shift in focus is partly made possible with new and emerging technology. Just as how technology has introduced profound changes to fields like finance and operations, it has also benefitted the field of HR, allowing it to demonstrate its business value.
“Digitalisation has allowed us to work more effectively,” said Mr Jim Basterfield, Director of Human Resources at Teekay Tankers. “For example, an increase in self-services reduces HR administration, thus allowing us to spend more time on value-added initiatives such as employee engagement and development.”

Transforming the Workplace through Digitalisation

Though the maritime industry has already begun its digitalisation journey, the COVID-19 pandemic drove the world into a new era of business and accelerated the take up of digital tools in maritime organisations – all in a short span of time.

“The COVID-19 pandemic has, somewhat counterintuitively, led to improvements in global connectivity across office locations and ship to shore,” shared Ms Eleana Choy, Global Head of HR at The China Navigation Company (CNCo). “The restrictions caused by the pandemic have acted as a catalyst for widespread implementation of existing digital tools such as Teams and Zoom. I believe that virtual activities such as meetings, workshops, inspections and audits would further develop and become a regular part of the working landscape.”

The pandemic has not only propelled an industry-wide digital transformation, but workplace transformation as well, as companies leverage technology to ensure their businesses continue to run smoothly. HR is essential to supporting employees during this transition, especially for those unaccustomed to such digital practices.

“We have embarked on a series of ‘Future of Work’ initiatives where we look ahead, prepare our workforce to be in a stronger position in the ‘new normal’. While the adoption of new technologies is central to these initiatives, reshaping mindsets is equally crucial for us to make changes with agility,” shared Mr Ng. “We have devoted considerable efforts and resources to level up every staff to be more conversant in using digital tools. Many of our frontline staff who are less digital savvy are now participating in e-learning and virtual classrooms-type training using digital technologies.”

Other challenges arising from this new working environment include changing expectations from management, growing disconnect from colleagues and blurring of work-life balance. Employees require the right support to stay engaged and motivated, with a renewed focus on their mental and emotional wellbeing, even as companies strive to provide undisrupted services.

“We are ramping up our staff engagement using digital means, by piloting virtual team bonding activities and rolling out practical tips for more effective connections online,” said Mr Ng.

“Our employees have remained connected at the local, regional and global level whilst working from home, balancing business requirements as well as social needs, including fun online activities such as Happy Hour,” Mr Basterfield added.

“There is additional emphasis on staff safety, emotional and mental wellbeing, changes in working norms and development of policies and guidance that support best practices and ensure regulatory compliance,” said Ms Choy. “Aside from online social activities, we have encouraged colleagues to bond by introducing their family members and pets during online meetings. The best way to work from home is by embracing the home environment rather than pretending it is not there.”

(Photo: CNCo’s Employee Action Group meeting in their cultural best. The group focuses on building a vibrant community around the world, leveraging on its rich cultural and geographical diversity.)

In organisations with a diverse workforce, HR leaders have to be aware and conscious of the varied needs of employees through maintaining continued interactions to best understand how to meet these needs.

“Our HR team has been purposeful in reaching out to every employee bi-weekly to check in with them and their families on a personal level, rather than just on a work-related basis, to make sure they are coping amidst these challenging times,” shared Mr Basterfield. “It is important to go beyond what technology can provide in terms of interaction and demonstrate we really care about our people.”

“Our regular online townhalls reach out to employees across all locations globally and have provided not only an opportunity for management to deliver key messages but also for employees to raise their concerns, either in person or anonymously,” Ms Choy added.

While those onshore have been impacted by the pandemic, these challenges are also extended to those at the frontline, both at the port and onboard vessels. Furthermore, stringent restrictions that have prevented crew change have created feelings of isolation and anxiety among seafarers onboard.

For both CNCo and Teekay Tankers, providing additional allowances and increasing data allowances for seafarers unable to sign off, as well as providing salary to support those unable to sign on are some of the ways they have helped seafarers cope in the face of such difficulties.

Drawing Support from the Maritime Ecosystem

While maintaining communication is key to ensuring employees remain abreast of developments and connected despite these changing situations, providing a network for HR leaders to draw insights and support from can benefit their work processes. The Circle of HR InnOvators (CHRO) network, set up by the Maritime and Port Authority of Singapore (MPA) and the Singapore Maritime Foundation (SMF), was thus created for this purpose.

“Although the CHRO network is still in its infancy, it is helpful as HR leaders can learn from each other’s successes and challenges, and subsequently implement best practices in their respective organisations,” said Mr Basterfield.

As the industry navigates these challenging times, having a platform for maritime HR to exchange learning points also provided guidance in addressing challenges that accompanied the pandemic.

“The CHRO network has enabled HR practitioners to share and exchange useful information for us to act in a timely and effective manner amidst COVID-19,” shared Mr Ng.

“Such sharing has been beneficial in coping with the current situation,” Ms Choy added.

(Photo: Members of the CHRO network meeting virtually amidst COVID-19)
Forging Ahead into the New Normal

Against the backdrop of the COVID-19 pandemic, the global economy will remain under pressure, bringing fundamental changes to business models and working arrangements, amongst others. HR will continue to play an essential role in helping their organisations change the way they think about work, and ensuring continued transformation in the workplace.

“HR leaders need to stay abreast with the business developments, view all possibilities and challenge our perceptions to rethink workforce planning, management and performance strategies,” Mr Ng pointed out.

Ms Choy also added that attitude shifts and changes in expectations should take place across management teams.

“Companies will need to develop managers with the skills and aptitudes necessary to run remote teams, placing greater emphasis on leadership, employee engagement and management of results than on micromanagement of actions,” she said.

Building a resilient workforce with the right skillsets is also important, especially as COVID-19 reinforced the importance of digital transformation to business success.

“With the industry continuing its relentless digital march, the ability to manage information and to analyse data will be of increasing relevance,” shared Ms Choy. “This includes digital literacy, information agility and analytical skills.”

Yet there are some fundamental traits that organisations are always on the lookout for.

“Flexibility, willingness to adopt change and commitment are some of the core behaviors that employers seek,” said Mr Basterfield.

In addition to hiring talent with the right skillsets, Mr Ng shared that robust job design coupled with upskilling and multiskilling employees should also be a priority to ensure a more agile workforce in the long run.

On retaining talent, Ms Choy stressed the importance of going beyond providing stable jobs.

“Successful companies will need to do more than simply provide stable jobs, they must equip employees with the skills they need to thrive in the industry even as specific roles change or disappear,” said Ms Choy. “They must also provide opportunities for their employees to make progress in their careers using these skills.”

Fundamentally, people should remain the core focus of any organisation.

“Compassion and instilling a sense of community should be immediate priorities in the new normal,” said Mr Basterfield. “HR practitioners need to trust, care and invest in their employees, in order to have a continued positive impact on their organisations’ culture.”

(Photo: Fruits delivered to employees and their families during COVID-19, accompanied by a handwritten note from Mr Kevin Mackay, CEO of Teekay Tankers)

While it is important for maritime organisations to remain resilient and adaptable, recognising HR as a strategic partner is central to their success. As the world reflects on 2020 in the future, organisations will be assessed not only on their ability to ensure business continuity, but also how they had supported their employees through these extraordinary times.

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Seafarers on the COVID-19 Frontline

25 June 2020 Amid the COVID-19 crisis, seafarers continue to play an important role in transporting vital goods to countries worldwide. Mr Mohamad Abu Bakar, Vice President, Singapore Organisation of Seamen (SOS), Mr Toh Soon Kok, Port Chaplain, Mission to Seafarers Singapore (MTSS), Mr Sulaiman Jamaludin, First Officer, NYK Shipmanagement, and Mr Muhamad Fareez Bin…

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IMO 2020: The Marine Insurance Perspective

20 April​ 2020 Rama Chandran, Chairman of the Ocean Hull Committee at the International Union of Marine Insurance (IUMI) and member of the Marine Insurance Committee at the General Insurance Association of Singapore (GIA), shares with SMF the impact of IMO 2020 on shipping and marine insurance. 2020 began with one of the most significant…

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Digitalisation: The Way Forward

Steen Lund, Chairman of the Singapore Shipping Association’s Digital Transformation Committee 10 March 2020 Digitalisation is key for the maritime industry to stay relevant as future trade will largely operate in a digitised environment. Steen Lund, Chairman of the Singapore Shipping Association (SSA)’s Digital Transformation Committee (DTC), shares with SMF how industry stakeholders are supporting…

25 June 2020

Amid the COVID-19 crisis, seafarers continue to play an important role in transporting vital goods to countries worldwide. Mr Mohamad Abu Bakar, Vice President, Singapore Organisation of Seamen (SOS), Mr Toh Soon Kok, Port Chaplain, Mission to Seafarers Singapore (MTSS), Mr Sulaiman Jamaludin, First Officer, NYK Shipmanagement, and Mr Muhamad Fareez Bin Haris, Third Officer, Maersk Tankers, share with SMF the impact of COVID-19 on seafarers and what has been done to provide them with support.

With over 80% of world trade carried by sea, the maritime industry is the backbone of the global economy, transporting essential goods which range from raw materials like crude oil and iron ore to finished products like laptops and smartphones, all around the world. Just as how the industry is vital to international trade, the role of seafarers is indispensable in the movement of goods.

“Seafarers are at the heart of every economy,” said Mr Mohamad Abu Bakar, Vice President, Singapore Organisation of Seamen (SOS). “They are fundamental to the world’s supply chain.”

Even as the world comes to a near standstill in the face of a pandemic, global supply chains remain open and connected as seafarers continue to work around the clock to transport essential goods to people and organisations worldwide.

“Seafarers are on the frontline during this COVID-19 pandemic,” said Mr Toh Soon Kok, Port Chaplain, Mission to Seafarers Singapore (MTSS). “During this critical period, they are exposed to risks, while maintaining the flow of vital goods, such as surgical masks, medication and medical equipment – all needed to tackle the pandemic.”

Like any other job, this role comes with its share of challenges, such as rough weather, piracy threats and separation from loved ones. As governments react to the pandemic with lockdowns and travel restrictions, seafarers are unable to sign off or sign on.

“This causes mental stress and fatigue, as they are uncertain as to when they can return home,” Mr Toh added.

“Seafarers onshore are also affected as they are unable to sign on,” explained Mr Mohamad Abu Bakar. “They do not know when they will be deployed again, and how they are going to make ends meet until then.”

Yet, in the face of these issues, some have continued to remain positive.

Mr Sulaiman Bin Jamaludin, First Officer at NYK Shipmanagement, had initially expected to return home by mid-April upon the end of his contract, just in time to observe Ramadan with his family, celebrate Hari Raya Puasa as well as his son’s birthday. However, with the onset of travel restrictions, he could not be relieved in time.

“Having constant contact with my family and knowing that they are doing well back home helps me stay optimistic,” said Mr Sulaiman Jamaludin. “The co-operation among co-workers onboard is also important in overcoming this period together.”

“Not knowing when I will be repatriated in time is definitely a challenge both for myself and my family back home,” said Mr Muhamad Fareez Bin Haris, Third Officer, Maersk Tankers. “But I try not to think too much about it by maximising my time onboard, such as taking online courses.”

(Photo: Mr Fareez Haris onboard during Hari Raya Puasa)
Maritime Community’s Responses to COVID-19

Needless to say, a global pandemic affecting an industry that connects countries worldwide requires international collaborative efforts. Recognising the severity of the situation, the International Maritime Organisation (IMO) provided resources and urged member states to take action. Circular letters were issued to member states and international organisations containing guidelines to ensure a safe ship, facilitation of safe seafarer repatriation and considerations for post-COVID-19 operations, amongst others.

In Singapore, the Maritime and Port Authority of Singapore (MPA) responded promptly, swiftly engaging agencies and industry partners such as the Singapore Shipping Association (SSA), Singapore Maritime Officers’ Union (SMOU) and SOS, to bring forth solutions. The MaritimeSG Together Package worth S$27 million, was initiated by MPA to provide targeted support for maritime companies, individuals and seafarers.

“Although I have not required any form of assistance from MPA, I understand that they have been providing monetary assistance and job offers to my batch mates to help them tide over this uncertain period,” said Mr Fareez Haris.

Other financial relief measures include SMOU and National Trades Union Congress (NTUC)’s Care Funds targeted at SMOU members.

Apart from financial assistance, the MPA has endeavoured to ease crew change restrictions while ensuring a minimal risk of community spread. Moreover, industry associations have also provided assistance. The SSA initiated the formation of The Singapore Crew Change Working Group (SGCCWG) with its tripartite partners: the MPA and the SMOU, in cooperation with the International Maritime Employers’ Council Ltd (IMEC) and World Shipping Council, and jointly developed a COVID-19 Singapore Crew Change Guidebook to help companies effect crew change in Singapore amid the global pandemic.

Since March 27th, there has been over 13,000 approved crew change cases in Singapore during the COVID-19 period.

“These initiatives have provided much support and encouragement to the seafarers,” shared Mr Mohamad Abu Bakar. “As we continue to appreciate healthcare workers at the frontline, the maritime community reminds seafarers that they are not forgotten, and are celebrated as unsung heroes during this pandemic.”

Shipping companies play an equally important role in improving their employees’ welfare during these challenging times.

“Many companies are urging countries to recognise seafarers as essential workers,” said Mr Mohamad Abu Bakar. “They are calling for governments to allow international travel so that crew change can be carried out and seafarers can return home.”

“My company has strived their best in making crew change possible, initiating deviations of routes for some ships to allow for crew change whenever feasible,” shared Mr Sulaiman Jamaludin. “They have also increased the internet speed onboard for better communications between the crew and their family, which has been very helpful.”

As many seafarers are unable to renew their certificates at this point, MPA and the Infocomm Media Development Authority of Singapore (IMDA) have allowed for the extension of Standards of Training, Certification and Watchkeeping (STCW) certificates, in line with the IMO.

“One of my STCW certificates has expired and a few others, including my Certificate of Competency, are expiring soon,” said Mr Sulaiman Jamaludin. “As I could not be relieved in time, I was able to obtain a six-month extension approval from MPA with the help of my company.”

Such extraordinary times call for all hands on deck. Organisations such as MTSS and SOS who are dedicated to ensuring that seafarers are well-represented and cared for, work tirelessly to help in any way they can.

“During this period, as we can no longer meet seafarers in person, we have made our contact details available on both our website and MPA’s website, so they can reach out to us if necessary,” explained Mr Toh.

“SOS has prepared 650 care packs containing surgical masks, hand sanitisers, anti-bacterial hand wash and anti-bacterial hand wipes to members based in Singapore,” Mr Mohamad Abu Bakar added. “For seafarers onboard, MPA has helped to distribute these care packs since we are not permitted to visit them.

(Photo: Mr Mohamad Abu Bakar (middle) distributing care packs to seafarers)
What More Can Be Done

Maintaining the continuous flow of goods while ensuring the health and safety of seafarers is no doubt a difficult balancing act. Given the interdependent and interconnected nature of the maritime industry, it takes the collective effort of governments, industry associations and maritime companies to tackle the challenges posed by the pandemic.

While many initiatives have been rolled out, Mr Toh believes that more can be done.

“For example, more shipping companies could bear seafarers’ expenses on transfer arrangements between ships and airports, as well as accommodation during the mandatory quarantine period upon arrival at another country for crew change,” he suggested.

(Photo: Kelvin Lin, Chris Jones and Mr Toh (right) with seafarers onboard during National Day 2019)

Mr Mohamad Abu Bakar added that providing exercise equipment onboard could encourage seafarers to keep fit, especially during this period, when shore leave is limited.

Ultimately, it is uncertain when the world would return to a time before COVID-19. The pandemic has highlighted the importance of adaptability in difficult times and the ability of companies to prioritise its people in their business processes.

“Companies are in talks with the authorities to work out special arrangements for seafarers in the event of another pandemic,” said Mr Mohamad Abu Bakar.

Seafaring – A Worthwhile Career

At the end of the day, seafarers are the driving force behind the continuous flow of goods. Despite the accompanying challenges, Mr Fareez Haris believes that a seafaring career is a very fulfilling one.

“I like that there is a clear career path and I get to learn from the Captain directly,” he shared. “I also get to travel the world, see new sights and meet different people. Like many other seafarers, I aim to take command of a ship in the future.”

“Seafaring can be tough,” Mr Sulaiman Jamaludin admitted. “But ultimately, it is a really satisfying and rewarding career. A ship provides a unique working environment and exciting experiences that cannot be found ashore. Seafaring has taught me how to be more patient, responsible and disciplined. It also showed me the importance of having family support. Overall, I can say that I am definitely a much more resilient and independent individual than when I first started, 12 years ago.”

(Photo: Mr Sulaiman Jamaludin on the bridge)

As the maritime community commemorates the 10th anniversary of the Day of the Seafarer, it is imperative that the industry continues to stand in solidarity with this group of key workers through raising awareness, maintaining dialogue and providing tangible support to them.

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IMO 2020: The Marine Insurance Perspective

20 April​ 2020 Rama Chandran, Chairman of the Ocean Hull Committee at the International Union of Marine Insurance (IUMI) and member of the Marine Insurance Committee at the General Insurance Association of Singapore (GIA), shares with SMF the impact of IMO 2020 on shipping and marine insurance. 2020 began with one of the most significant…

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Digitalisation: The Way Forward

Steen Lund, Chairman of the Singapore Shipping Association’s Digital Transformation Committee 10 March 2020 Digitalisation is key for the maritime industry to stay relevant as future trade will largely operate in a digitised environment. Steen Lund, Chairman of the Singapore Shipping Association (SSA)’s Digital Transformation Committee (DTC), shares with SMF how industry stakeholders are supporting…

20 April​ 2020

Rama Chandran, Chairman of the Ocean Hull Committee at the International Union of Marine Insurance (IUMI) and member of the Marine Insurance Committee at the General Insurance Association of Singapore (GIA), shares with SMF the impact of IMO 2020 on shipping and marine insurance.

2020 began with one of the most significant changes to the global maritime industry: the enforcement of the International Maritime Organisation (IMO)’s 2020 Sulphur Cap. Vessels operating outside designated emission control areas have to adhere to a drastic reduction of sulphur oxide emissions from 3.5% to 0.5%. The bold but necessary move to reduce sulphur oxide emissions was implemented with the goals of improving air quality and health, and making shipping a more sustainable and environmentally friendly form of transportation.

In the lead-up to 2020, ship owners were presented with the options of installing exhaust gas cleaning systems, also known as scrubbers, on their vessels or switching to compliant fuels such as marine gas oil, ultra-low sulphur fuel oil (ULSFO) or very low sulphur fuel oil (VLSFO).

Traditionally, most ships run on Heavy Fuel Oil (HFO). Some ship owners chose to install scrubbers on their vessels as they foresaw a fall in HFO prices with the introduction of IMO 2020. However, this was not an easy option in view of the cost and off-hire expenditures required.

The alternative of switching to compliant fuels was made easier with the assistance from various parties within the shipping community, including classification societies, engine manufacturers and bunker suppliers. However, such a transition was bound to introduce unprecedented risks. At present, the adoption of compliant fuels is still in its infancy for most ship owners, thus there are still some uncertainties with regards to its implications. Apart from potential damage to the vessels’ main and auxiliary engines as well as fuel systems, there is a risk of grounding and collision arising from the failure of the main propulsion engines. It is imperative that shipowners engage all service providers to ensure that such risks are significantly mitigated or eliminated.
Three months into the implementation of IMO 2020, the maritime industry is starting to settle down, albeit still facing some challenges.

The Impact on Marine Insurance

Globally, machinery claims have remained at elevated levels in recent years. In fact, in the last five years, it has averaged 40% to 45%. Currently, it does not provide much allowance for large losses that might happen from time to time. With the implementation of IMO 2020, the possibility of increased machinery claims is a significant concern to underwriters.

Hull and machinery underwriting has always been a difficult task, with many variables to be considered, including the quality and risk management processes employed by ship owners. At this point in time, underwriters are still monitoring the impact of IMO 2020 on hull and machinery premiums, and it is hoped that premium adequacy will be achieved in the next year or two.

At IUMI, a professional body representing national and international marine insurers, we are gathering information to establish any clear trends to update the global underwriting fraternity, in order for them to better engage their clients and provide them with more adequate prices. As Chairman of IUMI’s Ocean Hull Committee, I hope to discuss this extensively at the IUMI conference in September this year.

In addition, as there have been a few cases where ISO 8217-2017 (fuel standard for marine distillate fuels) was found inadequate, we are engaging relevant parties to improve the risk of bunkers not meeting the requirements of ship owners. Besides keeping track of the impact of low-sulphur fuel on the vessels’ main and auxiliary engines as well as fuel systems, we are also observing the impact of scrubbers fitted on vessels.

“It is imperative that ship owners engage all service providers, including engine manufacturers, lubricant suppliers and bunker suppliers, to ensure that any risks resulting from compliance with IMO 2020 are significantly mitigated or eliminated.”

Navigating the Road Ahead

As the maritime industry continues to navigate through changing currents, the marine insurance sector should be on a constant lookout for new opportunities and challenges in the market, and proactively engage its clients to ease them into changes.

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Digitalisation: The Way Forward

Steen Lund, Chairman of the Singapore Shipping Association’s Digital Transformation Committee 10 March 2020 Digitalisation is key for the maritime industry to stay relevant as future trade will largely operate in a digitised environment. Steen Lund, Chairman of the Singapore Shipping Association (SSA)’s Digital Transformation Committee (DTC), shares with SMF how industry stakeholders are supporting…

Steen Lund, Chairman of the Singapore Shipping Association’s Digital Transformation Committee

10 March 2020

Digitalisation is key for the maritime industry to stay relevant as future trade will largely operate in a digitised environment.

Steen Lund, Chairman of the Singapore Shipping Association (SSA)’s Digital Transformation Committee (DTC), shares with SMF how industry stakeholders are supporting maritime companies on their digital voyage and the opportunities arising from digitalisation. The recent formation of the DTC in June 2019 aims to bring its members together to discuss technologies and cultivate a digital-centric mindset that pervades the maritime industry.

It is no longer a question of when, but how. Digitalisation has already made large-scale and sweeping transformations across industries, and the adoption of new technologies continues to rise. Organisations are left with little choice but to make fundamental changes to their business processes, or risk getting left behind in an increasingly competitive environment. Digital transformation has become the key to survival for most industries – and maritime is one of them.

While the maritime industry has commenced its digital journey, the progress varies within. In an industry known for being traditional, widespread change does not occur easily. For example, while some businesses may have adopted new technologies such as Robotic Process Automation (RPA) to improve productivity and operational efficiency, others still rely on traditional hard copies for certifications or business transactions.

That being said, it is understandable for the unknown to be met with anxiety. New technologies, being unfamiliar and untested to many, require investment in time and resources to understand and become comfortable with. Organisations might be deeply vested in legacy systems, which are difficult to break free from. Other considerations include job displacements or increased investments. However, resistance to change could result in companies becoming obsolete over time, especially with the competitive climate today.

Starting from within

Our generation is fortunate to experience a rapid and deep transformation of our business models through the infusion of technology – processes such as data entry, document management, procurement and scheduling can be automated. Over time and with incremental application in other business areas, companies are on their way to create value or revenue generating stand-alone ventures that either augment existing core business or a whole new vertical or company.

Industry support

Therefore, it is imperative that companies receive the strong support of the government and various industry stakeholders as they navigate this digital era. SSA undertakes many initiatives to help transform the industry through creating awareness of easy-to-implement solutions that are affordable to member companies to help them embark on their digital voyage. For member companies that have more ambitious plans, SSA links them up with funding agencies to help realise their aspirations.

As the Chairman of SSA’s Technical Committee previously and now its DTC, I have been actively connecting and collaborating with government agencies such as MPA and Infocomm Media Development Authority (IMDA), industry stakeholders in start-ups or established technology companies to explore technologies such as RPA, blockchain and 3D printing, in the desire to employ such technologies not just within Maritime Singapore but within the global shipping community. In an increasingly globalised environment, knowledge sharing is essential in exchanging best practice as we learn from one another.

"Our generation is fortunate to experience a rapid and deep transformation of our business models through the infusion of technology.”

The road ahead

I look forward to using technologies such as artificial intelligence and robotics to help eliminate laborious but required procedures such as information authentication and assessment, as well as track and analyze data that can assist us in making smart decisions for sustainability practices.

However, while artificial intelligence and blockchain technologies are rapidly proving great use cases and will continue to do so, I believe we are still only scratching the surface when it comes to connecting the ship to the shore staff. Most ships still communicate their operational states via the good, old noon report. VSAT communication provides a reliable transport of data from ships to shore and opens a plethora of use cases, that spans themes such as safety-related actions, situational awareness, human element in decision-making and operation, bunker and route optimization, predictive maintenance, automated alert handling, transparent stock keeping, analysis of hull and propeller degradation.

As technology is used to build transparency and trust in the entire business eco-system, we get more time and resources to focus on what matters most to businesses as well as the lives of our colleagues at sea and on shore.

Essentially, digitalisation is here to stay for the long run. Embracing digitalisation equals enhancing productivity and improving operational efficiency and customer experiences while potentially reducing costs. What, where and how it will be like over time will depend on the new technologies and applications that surface as well as on our initial willingness to explore, fail, adjust and then share successes.