Singapore needs to rethink its shipping strategy: government minister

SINGAPORE's Minister for Trade and Industry Chan Chun Sing has said that the Lion City's success as a maritime hub must come on a broad view of trade

09 April 2019 - 19:00

SINGAPORE's Minister for Trade and Industry Chan Chun Sing has said that the Lion City's success as a maritime hub must come on a broad view of trade.

Addressing 400 shipping industry professionals at the recent 13th Singapore Maritime Lecture, Mr Chan pointed out that besides existing activities such as building vessels and improving port infrastructure, Singapore has to boost its maritime service offerings by strengthening complementary sectors such as finance and logistics.

'To truly succeed as a maritime hub, we must see physical trade not in isolation, but as part of a multi-faceted connectivity that includes data, talent, technology and finance flows,' the minister said at the annual event. 'Our selling point has to go beyond our geographical location and our reputation as a 'catch-up port'.'

He noted that the maritime industry will come to be driven by data from sophisticated fleet sensors.

'Big Data analytics like neural networks will allow industry to extract invaluable insights from these data - such as how to better deploy resources to support shifts in global value chains, as well as to better tap the efficiency of different modes of transport,' he suggested.

'With the rise of inter-modal connectivity, shippers can also employ algorithms to gain operational and cost efficiencies, by combining road, rail, air cargo and ocean freight solutions.'

In such an environment, data will be essential to Singapore's trade platform, 'which will be open and connected, as opposed to balkanised', the minister said, citing achievements such as the Asean Single Window for customs clearance and a networked trade platform that digitises paperwork to make government certification and third-party commercial services simpler, The Business Times of Singapore reported.

The minister stressed that these developments will provide new opportunities for the Republic, especially as more companies and countries jump on board shared platforms to enhance both business-to-business and business-to-government operations.

Other trends that Mr Chan identified included global population growth, which is shifting towards Asia, and climate change, which forces cleaner fuel requirements but also opens polar trade routes.

'Our answer to the driving forces of demographics and climate change must be to go to where trade flows will be,' he said.

On US-China trade war, Mr Chan acknowledged that tensions between the two nations are here to stay, as the two countries compete over technology and geopolitical influence.

'How competition between them pans out has a bearing on the global economy. In extremis, the world could be fragmented into different trading blocs,' he warned. 'Even if the landing turns out to be somewhere in between fragmentation and global integration, the presence of protectionism will inhibit global trade, which is the raison d'etre of the maritime industry.'


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