ASIA'S fast-expanding economy will drive the shipping industry in coming years so Singapore must be ready to "ride on (this) wave of growth", said Transport Minister Lui Tuck Yew yesterday.
Mr Lui told the opening of Sea Asia, an anchor event at Singapore Maritime Week, that Asia accounted for almost 80 per cent of global container throughput at the world's top 30 ports last year, with this share tipped to expand. "We need to ensure there is sufficient capacity to meet the growth in shipping demand, and support the proliferation of mega vessels," said Mr Lui.
He added that Singapore has already invested significantly to increase port capacity.
When the third and fourth phases for Pasir Panjang Terminal are fully operational by the end of 2017, Singapore's total port capacity will increase by more than 40 per cent to 50 million 20-foot equivalent units.
Mr Lui also said that the Government will ensure that the maritime industry will grow in "a sustainable and responsible way" - such as introducing liquefied natural gas bunkering by 2017, in line with global efforts to use cleaner and sulphur-free fuels.
It will also take steps to develop maritime talent, he said.
The Maritime and Port Authority will roll out a career conversion scheme for Singaporeans to undertake mid-career switches into the maritime sector.
"We will continue to ensure that Singapore remains a prime location... so that maritime companies which are already here, or are looking for a landing spot in Asia, can continue to look to Singapore as a potential base to tap immense opportunities in Asia and beyond," said Mr Lui.
Industry leaders at the conference also discussed the future of Asia's shipping and offshore industry against the backdrop of falling oil prices.
"It's a question of survival over the next few years," said Mr Khalid Hashim, managing director of Thai dry bulk shipping firm Precious Shipping, who was one of five panellists at the Sea Asia Global Forum. Companies need to "do some things right" in order to be successful, namely scrapping old rigs, getting rid of non-core assets, raising finances and cutting costs, he said.
Pacific International Lines managing director Teo Siong Seng said shipowners should be more "responsible" when it comes to newbuilds. "There is too much newbuilding still."
Most of the panellists, however, remained optimistic about the medium to longer-term outlook, citing the projected growth of shipping volume, on the back of Asia's burgeoning middle class.
Singapore Maritime Week, much of which is held at the Marina Bay Sands Expo and Convention Centre, ends on Friday.
This article was first published on April 22, 2015.
Get a copy of The Straits Times or go to straitstimes.com for more stories.